Non-Traditional Tool for Pain

Medical marijuana an effective treatment option.

In 2001, Amanda* was working nights unloading trucks at a discount department store. She was handling a case of antifreeze, but the bottom of the box was not sealed tightly. The bottles began falling out, and as Amanda tried to catch them, she wrenched her back and injured it badly. That started the severe pain that’s plagued her to this day.Dr. Mark Fallows of Pain Institute of Central Florida in Lecanto treated Amanda (alias) for chronic, non-cancer pain with medical marijuana.

“The pain was horrible after my back injury,” recounts the Massachusetts native. “And it just got worse over the years as different things happened.”

Following her back injury, Amanda decided to seek the assistance of a physician to help her manage her pain. She did some research and chose pain management specialist Mark Fallows, DO, of Pain Institute of Central Florida.

Dr. Fallows is uniquely qualified to manage his patients’ complex pain issues. He is certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP), which has certified fewer than 400 physicians nationally. Further, Dr. Fallows is the only physician in Citrus County who is board certified in interventional pain management. He has served area residents since 1990.

“After I hurt my back, things just went downhill for me,” relates Amanda. “My pain started getting really bad after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2010. But the worst was when I got hit by a truck in my car in 2013.

“At that time, my life got ripped out from underneath me. My left shoulder was injured, so now I can’t raise my arm over my head. The accident left me with nerve damage in my left arm and left leg. I had to quit the job I had for twenty years at a hospice. After that, I suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and body-wide pain.

“Right now, I have terrible pain mostly in my back, left shoulder and neck. It used to be my left leg was worse, but now I feel awful pain in my right leg. I had been active. I loved to swim and ride my motorcycle, but I had to stop doing those things.”

Dr. Fallows tried several treatments for Amanda’s pain, including physical therapy, pain patches and spinal injections, but they didn’t do the job for her. He then resorted to opioid pain medications, but after a time, Amanda no longer wanted to take them.

“I’m still on one painkiller, but after so many years, I don’t want to be on it anymore,” verifies Amanda. “Right now, we’re trying to wean me off of it.”

After all the conservative methods of treatment that he tried with Amanda failed, Dr. Fallows tried another, less conventional route to treat her pain.

Toolbox Addition

At Pain Institute of Central Florida, Dr. Fallows offers comprehensive treatments to ease his patients’ suffering. He specializes in a variety of pain management techniques, including spinal cord stimulation, spinal infusion pumps and radiofrequency ablation. Recently,
Dr. Fallows added medical cannabis, or medical marijuana, to his toolbox of pain management treatments. This was an option he chose for Amanda.

“At fifty, Amanda is a relatively young person, and she suffers from chronic, widespread pain,” describes the doctor. “She’s had injections in the past and was on opiate pain medications, but they stopped working for her. When I saw she was not improving with other treatments and was devastated by the pain, I decided to try medical cannabis.”

In Florida, medical marijuana is available as an extract to be vaporized, drops that go under the tongue, capsules and a topical preparation, reports Dr. Fallows. Unlike many other states that have legalized medical cannabis, Florida has not legalized the smoking of marijuana.
Dr. Fallows chose the drops as the method of administration for Amanda.

“I find that sublingual drops are the best way to start because I can easily adjust the dose,” he explains. “I can control the dose milligram by milligram and change how many times a day the patient uses the drops. Ultimately, the patient may need a larger dose fewer times a day.”

Dr. Fallows notes that it’s unknown exactly how medical marijuana works, but it has three major components that are known factors in its effectiveness. These are THC, CBD and terpenes.

“Many of my patients do well with CBD oil alone, and I generally have them try that before moving on to medical marijuana,” the doctor discloses. “CBD oil is legal in every state. If that doesn’t help them, then they may need the combination of CBD, THC and terpenes.

“Medical marijuana is federally illegal, so there is only beginning to be good research done on it. However, it has been shown to help relieve pain and reduce the symptoms of a number of conditions, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Anxiety is often part of the pain patients’ experience,” continues Dr. Fallows. “They worry about when the pain will come back and how bad it will be when it does. With medical marijuana, not only do we reduce the pain, we also reduce the anxiety component. So the treatment helps the patient on two fronts.”

Painless Experience

“I get anxious about why I can’t get rid of the pain,” confides Amanda. “Sometimes when I have pain, I get a pins-and-needles feeling in my left arm. Then I get an achy feeling with chest pain, and I worry, Am I having an anxiety attack or a heart attack? That stresses me out.”

Dr. Fallows says it’s important to keep in mind that medical marijuana can be used to treat pain as well as many disorders, but it does not cure them. So far, it has proved to be a good option for Amanda.

“My goal is to get off the medication completely and manage my pain with the medical marijuana alone.” -Amanda

She is currently being treated for her pain with medical cannabis that she receives in the form of sublingual drops that she takes three times a day. The early results of the unconventional therapy have her encouraged.

“My mood is a lot better,” she enthuses. “My family has noticed that I’m more social with them now, which is very positive. I’m still having some issues with anxiety, but it’s much better than it was before.

“The medical marijuana is helping with my pain, but it’s hard to tell just how much at this point. I’m weaning off the painkiller right now, and when you’re detoxing, everything is uncomfortable. My goal is to get off of the medication completely and manage my pain with the medical marijuana alone.”

Amanda says her experiences with Pain Institute of Central Florida are always excellent. She is especially happy with the care she receives from Dr. Fallows.

“Dr. Fallows is wonderful,” she raves. “He truly cares about his patients. If anyone is looking for an awesome doctor who really listens to you, Dr. Fallows is the one to see.”

* Patient’s name withheld at their request.
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