Medication or Management The Future of Pain Recovery
A couple winters ago, I slipped on a sheet of ice as I crossed a parking lot. Losing my balance, I fell and landed hard on the left side of my back and shoulder. I didn’t suffer any serious injuries that would require surgery, but I was still hurt. The terrible pain meant I couldn’t lay on my back or side, and I slept in a reclining chair for eight weeks. At the time, I needed to choose whether I would start reaching for pain medication or focus on truly recovering from my pain through pain management. Since I’m a doctor in the pain management specialty, I obviously chose the latter option. I developed a treatment plan and started at-home rehab. It wasn’t an overnight fix, but with time, I recovered. I often share my story with patients who come in without any hope that they can get relief. I won’t give my patients false promises or tell them they’re never going to feel pain again, because that’s just not how it works. There are days when I still experience some form of ache from my fall, but it’s not constant. I enjoy a better quality of life today than if I had only relied on medication to deal with my pain. Pain management is a fairly new specialty. When I started, there was a lot being discovered, and even today, there’s a lot of ongoing research. To be honest, when I first entered medicine, I focused on surgery, not pain management. But when I began working in a hospital, I realized the field didn’t provide the work-life balance I desired. I wasn’t going to drop out of medicine completely, but I needed to rethink the direction I was headed. I approached my mentor, a neurosurgeon, to get some advice about what I should do with my future. He made it clear he didn’t want me to leave the surgical field, but once he saw I’d made my mind up on that matter, he warned me not to let my hands be idle. “You have very good technical skill and great hands,” he said. “Don’t just waste them. Look into pain management. You have a natural skill. I think you’ll do good there.” Many patients — and even other doctors — don’t fully understand the potential of this specialty. I know I didn’t understand it completely when I first started. Entering pain management has been a roller coaster, an exciting series of ups
and down, but all in a good way. I’m in the business of giving patients hope that they can recover and helping them feel better so they get to play with their kids, work the hours they want, and enjoy their lives again without restrictions. I get a great deal of joy and satisfaction from knowing I’m able to help my patients come up with a solution for their pain. We still don’t know everything about pain and recovery, but that’s what makes the field interesting. I am excited to be in a specialty that will grow so much in the near future.
Dr. Chi Izeogu
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