What’s New in Pain Treatments

older woman holding neck

Treatment of pain, particularly headaches and back and cancer pain, has always been a challenge. Recent technological developments in pain management, as well as new variations on ancient methods, can help to eliminate or ease tough pain.

Here are a few of these treatments that have shown success in pain management.

Headache pain

  • Occipital nerve stimulator is implanted directly. The stimulator is about the size of a credit card and can be activated by patients at the first sign of a headache. The device stimulates the brain to make a morphine-like substance that helps alleviate the pain.
  • IMATCH is a three-week intensive outpatient program. Patients who experience severe headaches several days per week need intensive therapy. Cleveland Clinic’s IMATCH program focuses on improving a patient’s ability to function, rather than on completely eliminating pain.
  • Botox and nerve blocks treat migraine, tension or chronic headaches. For tough headaches that don’t respond to other medications, physicians use Botox®, the popular anti-wrinkle agent. Botox injections offer temporary pain relief for up to four months. Nerve blocks, which require a minimally invasive procedure, can offer relief for up to nine months.
  • Clinical studies might be an option. A clinical study for chronic migraine sufferers is under way to evaluate peripheral nerve stimulation.

Back pain

  • Transdiscal biacuplasty reduces low back pain. Radiofrequency waves have shown success in significantly reducing back pain and improving functionality for patients with chronic low back pain.
  • Cooled radiofrequency ablation offers long-term relief. This new minimally invasive procedure, using radiofrequency currents through a cooled electrode, treats sacroiliac joint pain and may offer long-term relief.
  • Balloon kyphoplasty relieves back fractures. This minimally invasive procedure can offer pain relief for patients with vertebral compression fractures. Orthopaedic balloons are inserted to lift the fractured bone and return it to the correct position.
  • Clinical trials might be an option. If you have lower back pain but have not had any previous back surgeries, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial to evaluate transdiscal biacuplasty.
  • Acupuncture, diet and exercise reduce low back pain. “Complementary therapy acupuncture can work very well for back pain, headache and many other types of pain,” says Hong Shen, MD, a Cleveland Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and acupuncturist.

In addition to body acupuncture, practiced in China for more than 2,000 years, Dr. Shen uses auricular and scalp acupuncture.

“Auricular and scalp acupuncture work faster than traditional body acupuncture,” Dr. Shen says. But a patient’s response is individual: Some respond better to just one type; others respond better to a combination. Modifying treatment based on a patient’s unique needs and responses is part of Dr. Shen’s patient-centered approach.

Cancer pain

  • Nerve blocks provide relief for months. Local anesthetics are injected near the nerves involved in transmitting pain signals and may help temporarily block the pain. Neurolysis, a longer-acting technique that uses alcohol or phenol to block pain signals, may provide pain relief for three to six months.
  • Intraspinal drug infusion systems deliver medication directly. Implantable pumps deliver a small amount of pain medication directly to the spinal fluid that bathes the spinal cord. Other treatment options include pain medication delivered through external pumps.
  • Radiation therapy helps manage pain. Although radiation therapy may not cure the cancer, it can be a pain management tool when used to shrink the tumor and reduce pain.
  • Adjuvant drug therapies can offer relief. Traditionally not considered first-line cancer pain therapies, drugs such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids and others may offer pain relief.

  • T. Hopper

    My son has CRPS and completed the pediatric pain rehab program in April of last year. It was life-changing for him and restored the function to his leg. Amazing program run by amazing people!

  • ornurse32

    My son is 11 years old and is suffering terribly from a leg injury that caused CRPS. We are being treated by local physicians but NOTHING has helped. It has only been 7 weeks today but he is in CONSTANT intractable pain 24/7. Our insurance says they will not cover the Cleveland Clinic until all treatments have failed here in Michigan. Any advice? Two failed nerve blocks and max meds haven’t touched it.

    • Patient

      You should call Cleveland clinic and ask to speak with their financial department. You may find a loophole in your insurance or you may find you can cover the cost without your insurance (letting the doctors and staff know your situation, who your insurance provider is and what they told you may result in them lowering the treatment costs in your specific case) I am in no way affiliated with Cleveland clinic and am not saying they will do this but it is worth a shot! I am a patient there and can tell you they are amazing and I am no doubt alive today because of them. I hope your son is able to get the treatment he needs and can be rehabilitated and enjoy hos life. Pain is a horrible and debilitating issue and when the patient is a child its even worse. Good luck!

    • Sheila Atkinson

      Have you tried mirror therapy. The same kind they do for phantom limb pain. There are videos on YouTube showing how to make a simple one. It’s non invasive and with no side effects. You could also consider Bowen therapy as it is good for children. I also take anti epileptic medication which helps to dampen down the burning nerve pain. Hope things calm down for him. It’s hard enough trying to deal with it as an adult x

  • Elisha Wooden

    My husband has been dealing with this for 4 yrs. We drive 5 hrs to see a specialist in San Francisco who experiment on him with different meds..spinal blocks and therapy. With not much success. He cant walk far and requires a cane for assistants as his knee will just let out from under him. The meds are mostly neurologic so hes not always himself. I wish we had someone who could help him function better and be apart of our family activitys again, we have 5 kids still at home and he just cant function.

    • Sheila Atkinson

      Physical therapy and exercises in water help me. I go to a special swimming pool made for handicapped people. It has ramp access and is as warm as a bath. Walk in showers and wet rooms help with bathing. You can get inflatable bath chairs to get in and out of the bath. I have one. It’s called a Mangar. I have to use a stick now as my CRPS has spread from an arm injury 5 years ago. The first year was all about what I couldn’t do any more. The second was about what I can still do. Now I try new things and if I can’t do them at least I know I gave it a go. I don’t lose anything by trying as I know what I can still do. It’s more a case of mentally accepting that your old life has gone and saying RIP to it. I found I had to reinvent myself. It stopped me in my tracks from being who I thought I was. Dealing with the pain and physical limitations is only one part of the condition. Getting family and friends to understand that one day you may be fine to do something and the next you can’t get out of bed is difficult. Even over the day things can change. My example is when I was invited to the cinema. It was cold outside and I was travelling in a car. Even before I got in the car I had to think about whether my pain meds would last through the film, what coat to wear as I may be too hot in the car and cinema. Would I be able to take my coat off in the restricted space because of my arm restrictions. Would I get knocked by people increasing my pain. Would I be able to sit in the seat for that length of time. How would I cope with the vibrations of the car and cinema sound track. All these things are the kind of issues that go through the head of a CRPS sufferer. It makes life difficult for the person with the condition feel part of things. Whether that is family outings, social gatherings or work events. That is if you have managed to keep your job. I lost mine after collapsing at work a year after diagnosis. A positive attitude and keeping mobile is the best treatment. Break tasks down into smaller parts and rest in between. Don’t overdo things when you feel well as you will pay for it in pain later. Set realistic goals. Don’t set a deadline for things. If you have things to do don’t assign a day. Plan a list of things to do over the week. That way you don’t build in failure if you have bad days. I hope you find this useful. Many blessings for less pain in your lives, both physical and emotional x

  • https://twitter.com/TheRiddleClass TheRiddleClass

    Can this be from an injury from years ago?

    • Sheila Atkinson

      There could be more incidents where there is already a weakness but the weakness or historical injury itself is not likely to be the cause alone. A simple sprain can cause it. I had a dislocation of my shoulder when I was 17. At 44 my shoulder was dislocated again and it set off crps. I had no symptoms of crps previously. High doses of vitamin c prior to surgery have shown to reduce risk of developing crps.