Learn about pain management services at Tidelands Health

Is it time to see a pain specialist?


Is it time to see a pain specialist?

Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is amiss, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to it.
In most cases, pain will dissipate as injuries or other conditions heal. But in some circumstances, pain may not resolve.
“Everybody has pain at some point in life,” says Dr. Bert Fichman, who specializes in treating chronic pain as a pain management physician at Tidelands Health Pain Management Services at Murrells Inlet. “The question is, when to come to pain management? That’s usually because the pain hasn’t gone away on its own.”

Types of pain

Acute pain – the kind of sharp pain that follows an injury or surgery, for example – can typically be handled with pain relievers and will eventually dissipate.

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Chronic pain is pain that lingers for a month or more. Maybe it’s that “old football injury” flaring up or the result of some other event, such as a car accident. Nerve pain can appear without an obvious cause and radiate to different parts of the body.
There are some nerve-related conditions that could indicate issues with your spinal cord or a tumor. They warrant immediate medical care:

  • Extreme weakness in your arms or legs
  • A loss of control of your bladder or bowels
  • Fever or chills with pain in the back
  • Numbness in the groin

If over-the-counter remedies don’t resolve your pain, the next step is to visit your primary care physician, Dr. Fichman says.
Your primary care physician may prescribe physical therapy, rest, medications or some combination of approaches to help diagnose and relieve your pain.
If those steps fail to produce results, it may be time to visit a pain management specialist for a deeper dive into what’s hurting and why. Pain specialists have their own set of specialized tools and techniques to address persistent problems.

Improved quality of life

Pain can be tricky to treat. Unlike a broken bone, pain doesn’t show up on an X-ray. The intensity of pain is subjective – the same condition can produce drastically different pain responses in different people.

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Doctors use methods such as faces (smiling to crying) or numbers (one to 10) to help patients communicate their level of pain.
“The overarching goal is to improve function,” Dr. Fichman says. “That goes hand in hand with improved quality of life.”

How to prepare

Dr. Fichman recommends doing several things if your primary care doctor refers you to a pain specialist:
Bring your records: Your Tidelands Health pain management specialist will have access to the results of imaging and other testing or procedures completed at a Tidelands Health provider or location. However, if you have recently moved to the area or otherwise have records from an outside provider, be sure to bring those records with you. Your pain management provider may order imaging and other tests as needed. If you have any questions about what you should bring, contact your provider’s office.
Know what you’ve already tried: As best you can, provide your pain specialist with a history of treatments you’re already tried and medications you’ve already taken to help guide your treatment path.
“It’s really helpful to keep track of your records and to have those records,” Dr. Fichman says. “I see fairly often that people have relocated and they don’t recall what they’ve had done.”
Have reasonable expectations: It’s also important to come to your appointment with the right mindset and expectations.
“Despite our best efforts, we may not be able to completely eliminate your pain, but we can often reduce it significantly,’” Dr. Fichman says. “Ultimately, the goal is to improve function and quality of life as much as possible.”
Attitude can also make a big difference, Dr. Fichman says.
“Of course, there’s a strong connection between the mind and body,” he adds. “Studies have shown that adopting a positive attitude can really impact the way you perceive pain and how much it impacts your life.”

Dr. Bert Fichman is a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician who provides care at Tidelands Health Pain Management Services at Murrells Inlet.

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