Dialing Back on Pain

Comprehensive Approach to Pain Management

MCW physicians & researchers are helping patients manage pain
MCW clinicians, researchers and educators are undertaking numerous endeavors related to pain management and providing long-term relief to patients.

What exactly is pain? We've all felt it to varying degrees, so are very familiar with it on a personal level.

But what you might not be aware of is the science behind why you hurt. Pain involves a complex interaction between specialized nerves, your spinal cord and your brain – and thus the experience of pain varies from individual to individual. Pain is your body's way of alerting you to danger and letting you know what's happening.

Acute pain is severe, lasts a relatively short time and usually is a signal that body tissue is being injured in some way; the pain generally disappears when the injury heals. Chronic pain may range from mild to severe, and is present to some degree for long periods of time – often without a clear reason.

According to Relieving Pain in America, a 2011 report by the Health and Medicine Division of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, "Chronic pain has a distinct pathology, causing changes throughout the nervous system that worsens over time. It has significant psychological and cognitive correlates and can constitute a serious, separate disease entity."

Some forms of chronic pain can be treated with therapy which may include medication or surgery.

Other types of chronic pain, however, may be far more difficult to diagnose and treat. Left untreated, chronic pain can have a devastating impact on all aspects of sufferers' lives.

About 65 percent of individuals with chronic pain report a high level of anxiety and interference with daily activities including sleep, intimacy, work, exercise and routine self-care, which can have a negative effect on personal relationships, social interactions and lifestyle.

Although the greatest incidence of chronic pain occurs in women ages 50-54 and men ages 55-59, it also occurs in children and adolescents.

American adults with moderate or severe pain likely to experience this

An injury or illness that is extremely painful for one person might be only slightly bothersome for another. This is because each person's response to pain is heavily influenced by many individual traits, as well as psychological, emotional and social factors.

This is the primary reason pain management is a vital area of focus for the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and its clinical partners in the Milwaukee area, including Froedtert Hospital, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin (Children's) and the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center.

What follows is a glimpse into several endeavors being undertaken at MCW related to pain management and providing long-term relief to patients.

Understanding Hypersensitivity to Pain

MCW researchers and physician scientists study the causes of acute and chronic pain and work to develop new pain management technologies and treatment methods.

Novel Therapies for Neuropathic Pain

MCW's pain research team in the department of anesthesiology explores mechanisms underlying chronic pain related to nerve injury ("neuropathic pain") and collaborates on novel treatment approaches.

Pain Research Drives Many of MCW's Patient Care Efforts

MCW physicians are conducting and translating research to improve acute and chronic pain care for both adult and pediatric patients.

Educating Physicians About Pain

MCW provides broad pain management educational opportunities, including a one-year pain medicine fellowship and development of pain education resources and tools to enhance patient satisfaction and provide pain relief.

MCW's Pain Management Center Provides Comprehensive Chronic Pain Services

The MCW Pain Management Center is a multidisciplinary clinic that uses the latest techniques in pain management procedures and therapies to provide patients with the most comprehensive chronic pain services in the area.

Pushing Back on Pain With a Pain Psychologist

Read how Kathy Burlingham's search to find effective non-drug-related therapies and techniques to manage her chronic pain brought her to MCW.

– Anthony Braza • Greg Calhoun • Sara L. Wilkins
 

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