I recently had an opportunity to visit the Jim Pattison pain clinic in Surrey, BC, Canada. It is a breathtaking building with beautiful architecture and bright open spaces with tons of huge windows that really balance out the building. The main floor is expansive and well thought out, and I was very impressed with the use of technology. There are kiosk machines that allow you to register your appointment by using your BC medical card. Pretty slick, you just enter your information and the machine ejects a receipt which tells you exactly which floor to go to for your appointment.
As a former computer technician, I was inspired with the ‘flow’ of patient traffic that I observed. Someone was thinking when they designed the pain center. It was put together like a customized computer or printer. O.K. so I’m a little different and think in terms of computer hardware, but the building just made so much sense to me. So, lets continue with the tour and the experience.
My Doctor put in a request for me to go to the pain clinic just a few months ago, so I assumed that it wouldn’t take that long to get in. After about one month of waiting, I phoned the pain clinic myself and asked when I could get in, and they told me that it could take over one year. One year? That was more than a little strange to me, and I asked the receptionist why it would take so long just to get into a pain clinic, and she reminded me that it was just the way it was. It was incredulous that in this modern day if someone has chronic pain they had to wait over one year for any help at all. Is this the price we pay for socialized medicine? or is it that the amount of chronic pain sufferers has simply overwhelmed the system?
Well, then comes the interesting turn of events. I got a call just a few days ago from the pain clinic, and they told me to come in the following Monday. I was deliriously happy. I don’t know how it happened, or who to thank, but I got into the pain clinic in just a few months. My faith in the system is now fully restored. That’s not the neat part. Wait until I tell you about the technology that they are thinking of using on me. First, let me explain what happens when you see one of the very competent pain specialists.
There is a prerequisite before you see a pain specialist for evaluation. You need to fill out a twelve page form that is quite detailed and from what I can gather from the questions, paints a picture of your pain tolerance, present attitude toward recovery, physiological stability and many other areas that will help the doctor not only establish lines of communications, but probably wants to know how much time and effort you will put into your own recovery. After all, the pain professionals need to know what to expect when working with you. I had three main goals that I put on the report. They are, in no particular order:
(1) Get rid of the excruciating pain in my neck, jaw and forehead. (2) Help me get rid of the constant headaches and (3) Stop, control or otherwise take away the twitching that I have been experiencing for over four months.
The Doctor is planning to do what they call a ‘nerve conduction test’ where they insert needles (I hate needles) in certain parts of my body, then run low voltage, low current through the needles and then find out how fast the electricity flows across certain nerves. (At least, I think that’s the way it should work) Then, they collect the data and compare it to some kind of a baseline to be able to interpret the findings. I’m not really sure of the order, but there are two other things that the pain Doctor is going to try.
Nerve Blockers. It’s formal name is called ‘Medial branch block’ on the Facet Joint. Basically, its an injection of local freezing to block the nerve to a facet joint. Facet joints are small joints between each of the bones of the spine. If that is successful, and I get relief from the injections, then we move onto the next step, which is:
Radiofrequency Lesioning. Essentially, they again use needles (whats with the needles all the time) and use the needles to send radio waves (heat that burns the nerve endings) and they pass then heat through for about 2 minutes to prevent the nerve from carrying pain signals. This kind of procedure is fascinating in that, they may not be able to completely ‘burn’ the nerve endings and kill them completely. The nerves may grow back in the future. I am looking forward to doing anything that will give me relief. This adventure has allot of fun and interesting twists. It’s important for me to blog about my recovery because I have found out that there are chronic pain sufferers out there that are in constant need of either support, honesty, a helping hand up or some questions answered. As a matter of fact, I was in exactly the same position many months ago when the pain got so bad, it literally put my life on hold until I could collect my thoughts and start thinking about what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it. First were my thoughts on pain management, and now my thoughts turn to my recovery mode.
Well, it’s about time I iced my neck. Until next blog, see you later (and remember to stretch before walking). Rick Haaland