Pain serves a vital role in warning us about infection or injury. But when its protective function has fulfilled its goal, continued or persistent pain can often be detrimental to our health, independence, and quality of life.
Tens of millions of Americans suffer daily from chronic pain; pain that can lead to changes in the nervous system and become a disease in its own right. Chronic pain can result from older age, injury, as a component of another chronic illness, or from the musculoskeletal effects of surgery. The persistence of chronic pain is a major reason why so many Americans turn to pain management specialists, in an effort to be free from their symptoms.
Daniel M. Frohwein, M.D., a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician at Orlando Orthopaedic Center says one of the most frequent questions he gets asked about pain management is ”Can my pain be cured or just treated?”
According to Dr. Frohwein, the term ‘cure’ can be misleading, and patients need to understand what the term ‘treatment’ actually means in today’s medical terminology.
“In medicine, unfortunately, very few conditions can actually be cured,” says Dr. Frohwein. “We can cure some infections and we can cure some other disease processes. However, I usually prefer to discuss with patients the concept of treatment.”
What is Treatment?
In medicine, there is a clear difference between a cure and treatment. A cure indicates a total reversal of a disease, where the illness ceases to exist after a certain intervention.
Medical literature defines treatment as the management and care of a patient to combat a disease or disorder. A treatment is employed to alleviate the effects of certain diseases.
When a treatment process is introduced into a patient’s care regimen, the aim is to build up or reduce the presence of a particular biomarker, not to completely add or remove a certain status within the body. Some diseases such as chronic pain may have no cure, but a wide array of treatment options exist that can enhance a patient’s overall health situation vis à vis a particular illness.
Medical professionals utilize a variety of medication, therapy, surgery, and other treatments to mitigate the effects of a condition. Sometimes these treatments eliminate the disease, effectively making them cures.
“We treat medical problems when we can’t cure them,” says Dr. Frohwein. “Nowadays, treatments for medical problems can be so effective that they essentially render us asymptomatic for a prolonged period of time.”
When the presence of pain inhibits people from engaging in the activities they love, or from performing the normal tasks of everyday life, doctors will usually recommend a multidisciplinary approach to properly and effectively manage pain. To this end, the pain management doctors at Orlando Orthopaedic Center employ a variety of therapeutic methods including:
- Physical therapy – including addressing postural issues, movement patterns, and repetitive stress injuries
- Prescription medication
- Therapeutic modalities
- Interventional pain procedures
According to Dr. Frohwein, every patient is unique and will respond in different ways to any type of treatment intervention. However, treatment for chronic pain has the potential to alleviate symptoms to the point of eliminating the condition.
“So effective treatment can resemble a cure,” concludes Dr. Frohwein.