How a Pain Management Specialist Can Help You

The National Library of Medicine defines pain as a signal in your nervous system that something may be wrong. It may come in the form of a sting, burn or ache, and it may be sharp or dull. It may come and go, or it may be constant. You may feel pain in one area of your body, or you may feel it all over.  

There are two broad types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain usually comes on suddenly because of a disease, injury or inflammation. Acute pain usually goes away, but sometimes it can turn into chronic pain. Chronic pain can last for a long time, and it can cause severe problems. With either pain type, intervening sooner often leads to a better outcome. 

Pain is not always curable, but there are many ways to treat it, including steroid injections, nerve blocks, medication and nerve stimulation devices. At Weill Cornell Medicine Pain Management, a division of the Department of Anesthesiology, these are a few of the tools the specialists use to ease their patients’ pain and prepare them to derive maximum benefit from physical therapy.  

Dr. Philip Petrou, an Assistant Attending Anesthesiologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, is a pain management specialist affiliated with the institution’s Center for Comprehensive Spine Care and NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital. As such, he’s part of a multidisciplinary team working overtime to address the physical, mental and emotional components of pain. 

Read on as Dr. Petrou explains the ins and outs of his specialty and its benefits to patients. 

Which conditions do pain management specialists treat at Weill Cornell Medicine? 

  • back pain 
  • neck pain 
  • ankylosing spondylitis 
  • radiculopathy  
  • herniated disc 
  • post-surgical pain 
  • spinal tumors 
  • spinal stenosis 
  • arthritis of the knee, shoulder and hip 

What techniques do you use to relieve pain? 

All of the techniques we use are guided by imaging—usually, fluoroscopy or ultrasound. They range from steroid injections to medications to novel devices to alleviate nerve pain,” Dr. Petrou says.  

The newest peripheral nerve stimulation devices disrupt pain signaling from the peripheral nerves to the brain, and they’ve also become more compact, he says. Patients find them increasingly comfortable and easy to use—and they’re highly effective as well. 

We also refer patients to our integrative health colleagues for treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, mindfulness coaching, meditation instruction and cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

All the techniques we use work in combination,” he adds, plus they’re designed to prepare patients to get the most out of physical therapy.” 

How do pain management physicians approach the use of pain killers in light of the opioid epidemic? 

“We’re acutely aware of the harmful effects of opioids, including the potential for addiction,” Dr. Petrou says. “Our first step is always to seek pain relief alternatives.” 

How do you assess a patient’s pain? 

Patients fill out a survey that allows them to report the effects of their pain on physical activity, sleep and social interaction. Does it limit their ability to play with their grandchildren? Swim or play tennis? Get a good night’s sleep?  

Patients fill out a new survey before each visit so that we can track their progress based on objective criteria. We don’t limit our descriptions to mild, moderate and severe, as this terminology tends to be subjective,” says Dr. Petrou.We aim to assess and treat our patients’ pain in terms of its actual impact on their quality of life and to restore that quality of life, including all the activities that define a life.” 

What improvements can patients expect after treatment? 

  • improved range of motion 
  • improved quality of life 
  • better results from physical therapy 
  • the ability to engage in exercise, sports and other types of physical activity 

To make an appointment with a pain management specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine, call (646) 962-PAIN (7246) or visit here.