When a bad headache progressed to the most horrific pain I've ever experienced, I ended up in the Emergency Department (ED) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). I'm a Hodgkin's Lymphoma cancer survivor-this was more acutely painful than anything I'd gone through during that battle.
The team in the ED suggested I see a neurologist, who discovered a "perfect storm of events" caused a dural tear, a spontaneous leak in the membrane of my spinal cord. The leak decreased the pressure in my spinal fluid and around my spine and head, causing my severe headache.
For more than five weeks, I stayed on bed rest. Lying completely flat was the only thing that made me feel better, and we hoped the tear would repair itself.
It didn't. I was then referred to the Arnold Pain Management Center.
The pain specialist at the Arnold Pain Management Center had already been closely following my case. He and my neurologist agreed that I should now try an epidural blood patch.
My pain specialist explained that a local anesthetic would numb my lower back. Next, he would inject my own blood into that area using a thin needle, near where they suspected the tear was located. The resulting blood clot should "plug" the site and repair the leak.
He laid all the cards on the table. He said, although it is a highly effective treatment, there were no guarantees it would indeed work. If it worked, I would start feeling better soon after the procedure was over.
I was terrified of anyone getting near my back, but I decided to do it. My team's bedside manner was fantastic. They put me at ease.
Within an hour after the procedure, I could actually sit up without any sharp pain. I even smiled for the first time in awhile.
But, I wasn't out of the woods yet. Living with that kind of pain caused my muscles to tense up, which left me with pain.
My pain specialist gave me trigger point injections, a local anesthetic, in my neck to help my muscles to relax. I've found that acupuncture helps, too.
My pain specialist explained each approach thoroughly, worked closely with my neurologist, and focused on me 110-percent of the time. He kept me in the loop, and I knew he wouldn't give up until I had relief. I now understand the value of pain management.
Thanks to the team at BIDMC, after almost two months out of work, I'm back full-time. Just four months after my first visit to the Arnold Pain Management Center, I'm again playing in the cello section of a symphony orchestra, performing with a choral society, and singing with my church choir.
There were so many people that aided in my recovery. Thank you to all of them for banding together to get me through such a tough time.
After a head-on car crash more than five years ago, my doctor told me that no one in my area had the expertise to help me with the intense pain in my neck and head that left me immobile. But, there was some good news. He had heard a BIDMC pain management specialist speak at a conference. And, he encouraged me to make an appointment.
It's exactly 250 miles from my doorstep in Orland, Maine, to the parking lot outside the Arnold Pain Management Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I can't tell you how bad I felt going in that first day for my evaluation and how much better I felt coming out-just knowing I was on the right track.
Following my exam and carefully going over my most recent MRI, my pain specialist discussed options with me. We came up with a treatment plan.
First, to identify the source of my pain, I had two diagnostic facet blocks. By injecting medication at specific nerves, my pain specialist figured out where my pain originated. Based on a thorough medical history and physical, and the diagnostic block that reduced my pain, she concluded that I had damage to my cervical (neck) facets.
She next recommended radiofrequency treatments (RFTs) to alleviate my severe pain. She explained that the radio wave's electric currents should heat up a specific area around my involved nerves, destroying their ability to transmit pain signals to the brain. Additionally, she prescribed a new medication regime.
After the first RFT procedure, my pain decreased almost immediately. It was the first time I felt better in two years. I've had them on both sides of my neck.
I've also had two sets of trigger point injections, a small needle injection of a local anesthetic, in the back of my neck muscles. These gave me prolonged relief, too,
Today, I continue to improve. I went from not moving, just sitting in a chair, to being much more functional. And, now I'm even driving. I'm making progress.
I still make the trip 250 miles south, across state lines, to the Arnold Pain Management Center, as needed. While my wife used to do all the driving before, I can now share it-taking my turn behind the wheel. I don't know if I ever will play golf again, but I'm grateful I can drive my car. In fact, I am grateful to BIDMC for getting me back on the road to recovery.
Several years ago, I had two back surgeries for degenerative disc disease and debilitating sciatica. Initially, the surgeries eliminated my extreme pain and most of my overall pain. I enjoyed my active lifestyle again for a while.
But, then I started feeling a new pain. The pain was not as sharp as that from the sciatica-but it was quite bad and constant. My neurosurgeon at BIDMC immediately recommended I see a specialist at the Arnold Pain Management Center.
During my first visit, my pain specialist thoroughly examined me and looked at my medical history. She explained that different treatments work for different people, and together we designed a plan.
In addition to physical therapy, she suggested trying nerve block injections. She would inject a numbing medication around the nerves suspected of causing my pain. She explained that it could decrease or even eliminate my pain, but it doesn't work for everyone.
The first time it gave me some relief. But, the pain came back soon after a second set of injections.
We discussed my options again, and we chose radiofrequency treatments (RFTs) as my next step. This procedure uses an electric current, produced by a radio wave, to heat up a small area of nerve tissue. By doing so, the pain signals from that specific area should decrease.
Over the last 7 years, I've had RFTs 7 times. My treatments have been stunningly successful. The first gave me relief for several months, and the most recent lasted more than a year. I've actually been nearly pain-free.
My personal goal-from when I first came to the Arnold Pain Management Center--was to be able to kayak and canoe again. As a nature enthusiast, my passion includes leading trips for an outdoor recreation and conservation organization.
I'm now able to resume 90-percent of my activities, including kayaking and canoeing. I'm careful and more attentive to using my trunk muscles-but I can do it!
I continue with my physical therapy exercises, and I probably will my whole life. And, I have a few bad days along with the good. But, the bad is so much less intense than it used to be.
My pain specialist truly gave me a new lease on life. So did my neurosurgeon and physical therapist. They all worked seamlessly together.
My message to others who suffer from chronic pain is don't give up. At some point, I believe you will find a medical treatment that will help you get to a better place. I'm so thankful for my team at BIDMC for getting me to that much better place.
Cynthia-Warner, New Hampshire
I'm able to enjoy my quality of life again because of my pain specialist and the Arnold Pain Management Center. I've always been very active. After a serious fall about 10 years ago, I underwent total knee replacement surgery, hoping to be able to live my active lifestyle again.
However, after the surgery, I suffered from the most extreme pain-worse than before. The pain would even wake me in the middle of the night.
For the next several years, I went to many different medical institutions looking for answers and pain relief. I felt like no one understood or could do much to help.
Finally, I was told I suffered from nerve damage around my knee. I was strongly advised to see a pain specialist at the Arnold Pain Management Center at BIDMC.
At the Arnold Pain Management Center, I first had a thorough exam. After evaluating my medical history and exam, my pain specialist suggested I have a diagnostic nerve block. She said she thought she could indeed help me, so we scheduled the procedure.
By injecting medication at specific nerves, she confirmed what was causing my pain. I responded so well to the medication used during the procedure that I could actually walk again without severe pain. I immediately cried for joy, hugged my pain specialist, and--holding my crutches high up to the ceiling-I literally danced out of the office.
That was 5 years ago. Since then, I've had 5 radiofrequency treatments (RFTs) that give me the most incredible pain relief.
My pain specialist uses an electric current, produced by a radio wave, to heat up a small area of nerve tissue around my knee. Then, the heat decreases the pain signals from that specific area. After the RFT, I'm nearly pain free.
It sounds too good to be true-but it isn't. I work in a school, and I'm always on my feet. In addition to dancing, I love to kayak and ride bikes, snowmobiles and motorcycles. I can work and enjoy all of my favorite activities again without that pain.
Depending on traffic, the drive from my home in New Hampshire to the Arnold Pain Management Center takes three to six hours round trip. But, the time I spend in the car doesn't even matter. I can't tell you how grateful I am to have my quality of life back again and to know where to go for help if needed.