If you have chronic pain and are looking into alternative methods and new technologies to manage it, you have a growing list of options. Alternative pain treatments that doctors once scoffed at are now standard at many pain centers.

More than 100 million people in this country have pain that won’t go away. With 1 in 5 Americans suffering from chronic pain, the race is on to rediscover and invent alternatives to opioids. That’s why it’s vital to see a physician specializing in pain medicine who can help identify the source of the pain and suggest which pain method might work best, including alternative approaches and some of the more recent technical advances. Of course, the right choice depends on how long the pain has lasted, the cause, location and intensity.

Researchers are hard at work searching for new and better treatments. There are also specialists with extensive training and expertise who are working with patients to create a plan for managing pain and improving function. Here’s a look a some of the promising options that, used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, may offer new hope to people living with chronic pain.

Radio Waves

Radiofrequency (RF) ablation involves heating a tiny area of nerve tissue, which short circuits pain signals. Using CT imaging as a guide, a specialist inserts a needle into the nerve responsible for the pain and zaps it using an electric current created by radio waves. The relief can last for up to a year. The entire radiofrequency ablation procedure usually takes 30 to 90 minutes, and patients return home the same day. The nerves will eventually grow back (regenerate), but the patient’s pain may or may not recur. If the pain does recur, a second radiofrequency neurotomy can be performed, and similar results will usually be achieved. Some patients will not have a recurrence of pain. http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/injections/radiofrequency-ablation-procedure

Nerve Blockers

Under X-ray guidance, physicians can inject numbing medication that blocks or dampens pain, and might even stop chronic pain from developing. The location of the injection depends on the source and type of pain. For example, pain in the arm or face can be relieved by blocking nerves in the neck. Chronic abdominal pain or pain from cancers such as pancreatic cancer can be relieved by an injection into nerves supplying the abdomen. Relief may require a series of injections and may need to be repeated. Although many kinds of nerve blocks exist, this treatment cannot always be used. If your pain isn’t related to pain in a single or small group of nerves, nerve blocks may not be right for you. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/nerve-blocks

Electric Signals

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can provide short-term pain relief, especially for various types of muscle pain, by sending low voltage electric signals from a small device to the painful area through pads attached to the skin. TENS is used most often to treat muscle, joint, or bone problems as well as back and neck pain. The patient will feel little pulses when it’s on. While researchers aren’t sure why it relieves pain, they think it may either interrupt the nerve signals to the brain, or stimulate the production of “feel good” endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcutaneous_electrical_nerve_stimulation

Drug Pumps

This is a targeted drug delivery system using special pumps which are implanted and that allow the patient to push a button and deliver local anesthetics, narcotics and other pain medications to the spinal cord. This can bring relief while avoiding the side effects that often come with taking these drugs by mouth. Patients also get a psychological boost by having direct control over their pain. These spinal drug pumps are most often used by people with cancer pain, but also by patients with other types of pain who had side effects when taking medication. http://www.medtronic.com/us-en/patients/treatments-therapies/drug-pump-chronic-pain/drug-pumps-what-is-it.html

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