Pain Management FAQ

What is pain management?

Pain management is devoted to understanding the underlying causes of physical pain and identifying the safest, most effective ways to prevent, eliminate, or relieve it. The best pain management programs are individualized to a patient's medical history, condition, and any other treatments he or she has received or is currently receiving. Mount Sinai's Pain Management and Integrative Medicine specialists provide the most comprehensive care possible. We deliver a blend of individualized traditional and complementary treatment options, backed by the latest, most rigorous pain management research in order to treat the root cause of the pain.

What type of training does a pain management specialist have?

Pain management specialists are medical doctors who specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating all types of pain. At Mount Sinai, in addition to being highly skilled in core pain management therapies, our physicians have varied clinical backgrounds and areas of expertise, such as kyphoplasty, integrative medicine, and cancer pain management. We offer a wide range of advanced therapies and utilize a multidisciplinary approach, coordinating additional care, such as physical therapy and rehabilitation programs, as necessary.

Does medical acupuncture hurt?

A component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves inserting thin needles of varying sizes at strategic points in the body to relieve pain. At Mount Sinai, our licensed, western-trained physicians practice "medical acupuncture." Most patients find acupuncture treatments painless, while some report a deep "grabbing" sensation after the needle is inserted.

What is arthritis of the spine?

Arthritis of the spine, or spinal arthritis, is a condition where the small joints between each vertebra in the spine shrink or wear thin causing bone spurs or enlargement of the joint. This in turn leads to the pain and inflammation of arthritis. There are two main types of spinal arthritis: spinal osteoarthritis and spinal rheumatoid arthritis. Although spinal osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, is most commonly seen in men and women after the age of 40, it can occur in those much younger as a result of an injury or through overuse. Spinal rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's own immune system attacks the small joints of the spine. Precise evaluation and diagnostic testing is essential to identifying the best treatment plan for any type of back pain because a number of conditions, not just arthritis, can be the cause. Although there is no cure for any form of arthritis, non-surgical, integrative pain management can be highly effective in relieving symptoms and improving function.

What does the term "pinched nerve" mean?

"Pinched nerve" is a layman's term for a kind of injury or damage to a nerve or set of nerves caused by constriction, compression, or stretching. Having a leg or arm temporarily "fall asleep" is an example of a very mild pinched nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow are examples of more severe types of pinched nerves requiring medical treatment. Neck pain and lower back pain are also frequently associated with pinched nerves. Depending on your diagnosis, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, used in conjunction with traditional medical therapies, can be helpful in dealing with pinched nerves.

What are the risks of steroid injections?

Steroids, short for "corticosteroids," are anti-inflammatory drugs that can be highly effective in relieving the pain and other symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. In general, the risk of negative side effects from steroid use, such as infection, skin discoloration, gastrointestinal ulcers, and fat atrophy, is extremely low and is usually dependent on the dosage and length of time the injections are given. By taking the precautions your physician recommends, you can decrease the risk of serious side effects.

What is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy?

PRP therapy is a nonsurgical treatment approach that utilizes the patient's own blood to reduce pain and promote healing from soft tissue injuries, such as ligament and tendon injuries. Plasma is the liquid portion of your blood that carries red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In this procedure, a small amount of blood is taken from the patient's arm and the platelets are separated from the blood using a centrifuge. The plasma-rich blood is then injected into the injured tendon or cartilage with the guidance of an ultrasound machine. It typically takes six weeks before patients notice improved function and reduced pain.