Symptoms of chronic pain can aggravate physical and mental conditions and contribute to high healthcare costs and lost productivity.
At Advanced Pain Medicine Associates (APMA) in Wichita, Kansas, founder Jon Parks, MD, and his staff have a goal of not just treating chronic pain symptoms but finding the source of the pain.
“We want to go beyond treating the symptoms. We want to target that pain generator with the most appropriate therapy,” says Dr. Parks, who is board-certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and a member of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.
“Our job isn’t going to be to get a patient pain free ... It’s to optimize functionality and minimize suffering,” he says. “Patients may have some discomfort, but I want it to be so minimized that it doesn’t interrupt their abilities to do daily work, daily things and take care of themselves.”
By performing aggressive assessments that involve extensive medical history reviews, laboratory tests and radiographic studies, Dr. Parks and his medical staff can formulate a patient’s treatment plan. They refer to it as a customized treatment plan because it’s based on what’s happening within that particular patient’s body to cause the pain. The personalized approach helps Dr. Parks and his staff — which includes physiatrist George Fluter, MD, and four physician assistants with critical care backgrounds — create the most effective treatment plan.
Chronic pain affects about 50 million U.S. adults, or one in five individuals, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics from 2016. Approximately 19.5 million, or 8% of the U.S. adult population, have high-impact chronic pain. An article by the American Council on Science and Health cited estimates that chronic pain conditions cost more than half a trillion dollars annually in medical costs, disability programs and lost productivity.
While some pain management practices may specialize in treating certain types of chronic pain, APMA, which calls itself a full-service pain center, sees patients who suffer from any type of pain in any part of the body.
“We tell patients we take care of everything from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet,” Dr. Parks says. “We aren’t focused on one area.”
That means seeing patients who deal with all forms of pain: diabetic neuropathy, facial pain, headaches, joint pain, cancer pain, post-stroke pain and more.
In general, many patients see pain physicians for back or spine-related pain, and that’s a primary reason many patients are referred to APMA, Dr. Parks says. He estimates that as many as 4 out of every 5 patients at APMA see him or his staff for that sort of pain.
APMA offers a comprehensive range of treatments, including interventional treatments, interventional procedures and medication management, to help provide pain relief. The practice’s website lists more than three dozen forms of interventional treatments and procedures it offers, ranging from an epidural blood patch to various injections to different forms of nerve blocks.
“We combine the latest and greatest with the tried and true,” Dr. Parks says.
Amanda Mitchell, RN, BSN, Rebecca Wiseman, RN, BSN, Jana Garrels, RN, BSN, MA, and Annette Newell RN, BSN
Zachary Castor, PA-C, evaluating a patient
While Dr. Fluter focuses primarily on handling workers’ compensation care, Dr. Parks spends most of his time in the practice’s two fluoroscopy suites, he says. Each suite is outfitted with a C-arm used for intraoperative imaging during minimally invasive procedures. Surgeries are done off-site. As the practice approaches its third decade, Dr. Parks and his staff are considering options to expand APMA.
Dr. Parks says APMA has been as “opioid-sparing” as possible from its start in 2000.
“We’ve been on the forefront of that,” he says.
Even before K-TRACS, Kansas’ internet-based prescription drug monitoring database, was launched about a decade ago, APMA had established a reputation of limiting opioid prescriptions, he says. The fact that opioids impair a patient’s functionality runs contrary to the practice’s objective of helping patients regain a better quality of life.
“Pharmacies knew how stringent we were in prescribing them,” Dr. Parks says. It wasn’t unusual to have a local pharmacist check with the practice if one of his or her patients was trying to fill an opioid prescription from another practice, he says.
For patients with severe chronic pain, the practice will look to opioid alternatives, such as implantable pain management devices or adjunctive medication.
One form of treatment, so to speak, has become a patient favorite: the practice’s four primary therapy dogs, led by Lollie Pop, 14, and three younger male German shorthaired pointers named Dyson, George and Tucker.
Founder Jon Parks, MD, with his primary therapy dogs, who have become patient favorites. The therapy dogs help ease patient anxiety and stress.
“They help with the overall anxiety and stress of being here, for both patients and the staff,” says Dr. Parks, who owns all four of the dogs and refers to them as his pack. “They have a sixth sense of who needs a little extra attention. They may pass a room and do a double-take and just go in and sit down next to the person. After the person pets them and loves on them awhile, they get up and go.”
The dogs, in a sense, are providing some natural medicine. Research has shown interaction with dogs can reduce high blood pressure and anxiety and even instill a bit of optimism and trust through boosting the hormones of oxytocin and dopamine and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.