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Dr. Karpen 'Upfront' With Patients About Chronic Pain
By Lois Thomson

If you have to go to a doctor, you naturally want one who is going to take care of your problem. But don't you also want one who is going to be honest with you?

First things I've noticed over the years is that certain people may have expectations when they come to a pain doctor, thinking, 'You're the last guy and you're going to fix me and make me pain free.' Unfortunately, that's not always possible.

"But I try to bridge the gap between the patient's expectations and the reality of what we can do. And once you do that, you have a better rate of success."

But Dr. Karpen does his best to alleviate that pain, and he explained some of his methods. "My approach is what we call multidisciplinary. I'll incorporate many different modalities to treat pain, some being interventional, which means we'll use certain injection therapies. I'll use medications as simple as over-the-counter ones, all the way to narcotics if need be, including anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and so on. I'll refer patients to other specialists or incorporate physical modalities, such as physical therapy, chiropractics, or aquatic therapy."

The type of approach he uses depends on the cause of the pain, and those can be many and varied. For example, regarding neck pain, he said, "Probably the most common would fall under a muscular skeletal cause—simple muscle sprains or strains, like a whiplash, where the muscles are stretched and there's damage to the supporting structures of the neck. We may see difficulty with congenital problems. Then you have the disc problems, degenerative disc disease, bulging discs, herniated discs. The facet joints of the cervical spine can also cause pain if arthritic. We may see people with headaches that are originating from the neck, or even dental problems. We see a lot of patients with TMJ problems. And there are malignant issues, like tumors of the spine."

For that reason—because some of the causes are long-lasting and/or can't be cured—Dr. Karpen said some patients have been in pain "24/7 and have lost a level of function in their life as well as the quality of life.

"But that's the main purpose of a pain specialist, in my opinion—to get the pain under control as best as possible for the patient, and to focus on returning them to the (highest) level of function and quality of life."

For more information, call Dr. Jay Karpen at the Center for Pain Relief at (724) 942-5188

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