Our nation is in the grips of an opioid crisis, and oftentimes addiction to these drugs can be linked back to the legitimate use of narcotics prescribed for chronic pain management. Though the dangers of these drugs have become apparent and their use is now tightly regulated, opioid abuse and overdose remains a widespread problem in communities all across the country. What’s more, the underlying problem of chronic pain that helped fuel this epidemic in the first place has not gone away.
“Chronic pain is a major problem all around the world, with back and neck pain being especially common and a leading cause of work absenteeism,” explains Toledo Clinic pain specialist Joseph Atallah, MD, of Interventional Pain Consultants. “In the past, the trend was to treat pain using opioid drugs, and any doctor could prescribe them. We didn’t have a good understanding of their risks and side effects. But now that we know how dangerous they can be, the government has responded by tightening regulations. As a result, some patients who can no longer access opioids by prescription are turning to heroin, so now we’re dealing with a heroin crisis.”
The good news for chronic pain sufferers in our community is that Dr. Atallah and his partner James J. Otting II, MD, offer multiple options for controlling chronic pain without resorting to opioids. “Many people are living with debilitating pain on a daily basis, and it’s our goal to help them overcome it. We’re both board certified in pain management and offer cutting-edge alternatives to opioids, including techniques no other providers are using,” Dr. Otting states.
Though, as interventional specialists, Drs. Atallah and Otting are experts in controlling pain without the use of medication, they do offer non-opioid drugs as a first line of defense. From there, options expand to include simple injections, such as triggerpoint, epidural, and facet joint injections, as well as radiofrequency ablation, which targets nerves that transmit pain impulses with radiofrequency energy, thus blocking the pain.
Dr. Atallah further explains, “We also specialize in implantable pain-management devices, for example spinal cord stimulators, which replace the feeling of pain with a tingling sensation and are very effective for patients who have undergone multiple spine surgeries or have chronic pain that’s not well controlled by other means. Another tool at our disposal is intrathecal drug delivery, which involves administering a minute amount of non-opioid medication into the fluid around the spinal cord. This technique works well for both chronic pain and cancer pain and is much more effective than narcotics. We can also offer neurolytic blocks for relief of cancer pain.”
Providing lasting relief of chronic pain has a tremendous effect on virtually every aspect of patients’ lives. However, the role Drs. Atallah and Otting play isn’t limited strictly to pain relief. “We’re also focused on rehab to improve function so chronic pain sufferers can get back to the activities that are most important to them, whether that means sleeping through the night, returning to work, performing with less pain on the job, going to church, socializing with friends, playing with the grandkids, or participating in family activities,” says Dr. Otting. “In addition, many people with chronic pain also have issues with depression and anxiety, which is why it’s so critical that we have a pain psychologist as a member of our team.”
Drs. Atallah and Otting both agree that there are always options for managing patients’ pain, whatever its cause or degree of severity. “I’ve never told a patient that nothing more can be done,” Dr. Otting states. “In the rare case that we can’t help someone here, we can refer him or her to someone else who can.” Dr. Atallah adds, “Our state-of-the-art interventions, such as implantable devices and the intrathecal pump, provide long-lasting control of chronic pain and cancer pain, even for those who have lost all hope of finding relief.”❦