Search and Repair

Finding the true cause of pain is critical to relieving it.

The closest thing to heaven on Earth for Jean Caamaño is a province in the northwest corner of Spain called Galicia. Situated just north of Portugal along the Atlantic coastline, it’s a place like no other in the world, Jean says.

Jean Caamaño found relief for her ongoing back pain at Elite Pain Specialists

Image-guided steroid
injections have relieved Jean of her agonizing pain

“You look one way and you see the Atlantic Ocean,” Jean describes. “You look the other way and you see mountains with pine trees everywhere. It’s incredibly beautiful and I’ve been there probably six times and stayed anywhere from six weeks to two months.”

Now 79 and retired from her career as a teacher and emergency room nurse, Jean would love to get back to Galicia sometime soon but can’t say for sure she’ll do it. The reason, she says, is she’s just too busy doing other things.

“I keep myself very busy, mostly as a volunteer chaplain at the Bayfront Health Spring Hill Hospital,” she says. “I’ve been doing that for nine years, and I’m on call 24/7, so there’s not a lot of time for travel right now.”

About a year ago, Jean would have had difficulty traveling even if she had the time. A back problem that she believes was the byproduct of two previous back surgeries was causing her intense pain that radiated down her left leg.

“At first, it wasn’t the kind of pain you would run to the doctor for,” Jean explains. “It was just annoying, and when I told my primary care doctor about it he sent me for an MRI that showed I had herniated and bulging discs.”

Hoping her back and leg pain would diminish naturally over time, Jean didn’t seek immediate medical help for the problem beyond that initial doctor’s visit. As time progressed, however, her pain intensified to the point where walking became difficult.

“I wasn’t going to stop my volunteering at the hospital, so I pushed through it,” Jean says. “But by the time I got home every night I was wiped out. Eventually, I couldn’t even sit or stand for very long without the pain setting in.”

Jean’s nagging pain eventually prompted another trip to her primary care physician, who recommended she visit pain management specialist Anthony Isenalumhe, MD, DABAM, at Elite Pain and Spine Specialists, LLC, which has offices in Lutz and Spring Hill.

This Is Not a “Pill Place”

“A lot of people see pain management and automatically think it’s a pill place,” says Dr. Isenalumhe (pronounced E-sen-a-lu-may). “You go there when all else has failed, and the doctor gives you pills and manages your pain that way. That’s not what we are.

“Our goal at Elite Pain and Spine Specialists is not to cover up someone’s pain with medication. Our goal is to find out what the true cause of the pain is, and we use that discovery to determine the treatment that will best correct the problem and relieve the pain.

Elite Pain and Spine Specialists treats all forms of pain, from migraine headaches and pain associated with shingles to muscle pain and pain caused by cancer. For patients experiencing severe back pain such as Jean, Dr. Isenalumhe typically leans on one of three treatments.

One of those treatments is spinal cord stimulation. Used primarily for patients who have not responded to other treatments, spinal cord stimulation uses an implanted transmitter to produce electrical impulses that stop the delivery of pain messages to the brain.

“With spinal cord stimulation we first have the patient go through a five- to sevenday trial to determine its effectiveness,” Dr Isenalumhe says. “If we achieve at least an eighty percent reduction in pain during that trial, we go ahead with stimulation therapy.

“We also do radiofrequency ablation; where we basically turn off the small nerves that are proving to be problematic and causing the pain. We can turn them off for an average of about a year, and if the pain returns, we simply repeat the procedure.”

Before turning to either of those treatments, Dr. Isenalumhe typically tries more conservative methods of relieving a patient’s back pain. He followed that protocol with Jean, whose treatment began with a thorough examination.

“There are a lot of different things that can cause back pain, so it’s important for us to first evaluate the patient and do some diagnostic tests and imaging that allows us to pinpoint exactly where the problem is,” Dr. Isenalumhe explains.

“After doing that with Jean and reviewing her MRI, we discovered that her pain was coming from herniated discs that were pinching a nerve that starts in the spine and runs all the way down into the leg, even into the foot.

“In a situation like that, the first thing we want to do is chemically decompress the site. The best way to do that is with epidural steroid injections that will decrease the swelling of the nerve and improve the blood flow to the nerve and the area around it.”

Dr. Isenalumhe says the epidural steroid injections can be used to alleviate a variety of pain issues, including those arising in people who have been in motor vehicle accidents or anyone who has structural spinal abnormalities such as scoliosis.

When treating a patient such as Jean with steroid injections, Dr. Isenalumhe typically administers two injections a couple weeks apart. He then re-evaluates the patient to determine whether a third injection is needed. Often it is not.

Complete Resolution

Jean was one of those who did require a third injection. The first two injections reduced her back and leg pain by about 95 percent, according to Dr. Isenalumhe, leaving her with only a little discomfort in her leg. The third injection eliminated that lingering leg discomfort.

“Jean was doing extremely well after the first two injections, but I’m the kind of person who zones in on achieving absolute perfection – a complete resolution of the issue – so we went ahead with the third injection,” Dr. Isenalumhe says.

“Now Jean doesn’t have any pain at all. No matter what she’s doing or what activity she’s involved in, she has zero pain and she has a less likely chance of the pain ever coming back because the discs are no longer in contact with the nerves.”

Jean says the steroid injections were completely painless and happily reports that the effects were almost immediate. Within days of receiving the first injection, her pain began to subside, which allowed her to comfortably resume her active lifestyle.

“I’m not dragging my feet at the hospital anymore,” Jean raves. “I’m moving around pain-free and feeling great again. And even though I’m a very positive person, if something is hurting, I’m the kind of person who’s going to be honest about that and tell you.

“So, I really can’t thank Dr. I enough. He’s excellent. He’s very gifted and he’s been blessed with great hands and a great deal of compassion, care and understanding. He’s a wonderful doctor and I’m blessed to have him as one of my doctors.

“I definitely recommend him and Elite Pain and Spine Specialists to anyone dealing with pain of any kind. My feeling is, why not give them a try, because it certainly worked for me.

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