Pull The Trigger

Anesthetic injections take aim on fibromyalgia, muscle knots.

Though it has always been used primarily as a girls’ name, there was a time in the early 1970s when, according to records obtained by Parents magazine, 321 boys were running around the United States with the first name Erin.

Never before or since have so many boys in the US had that name, and Erin Briggs, who was 15 years old at the time, was among the girls who got caught up in some of the confusion created by the fad.

“At the start of school every year, they were always trying to send me to shop class because they thought Erin was a boys’ name,” Erin relates. “So I’d go to shop class, and the next thing I know they’re sending me to home economics again.”

“Dr. Khalaf digs and digs until he finds out what’s causing the problem, then he treats the cause.” - Erin

Erin says that Dr. Khalaf “digs and digs” until he finds out what’s causing the problem, then he treats the cause.

 

Erin wouldn’t have minded staying in shop class. After all, she once dreamed of becoming a pilot and flying B-52 bombers. She soon realized that her chances of doing that and a few other things were rather slim.

“They wouldn’t even let me play peewee football, so I was always being deterred from following through with things like that,” she says. “I figured, If I can’t even get into shop class, they’re never going to let me fly an airplane.

Erin, 59, eventually changed course and became a paralegal and administrative assistant. Meanwhile, outside of work, she became a very active person, one who prefers to do her own yardwork and home repairs. She also became quite active in the church.

About 20 years ago, her ability to work and maintain an active lifestyle became impaired by a host of health issues, not the least of which was fibromyalgia, a neurological disorder that causes fatigue and pain throughout the body.

“I also have degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, bursitis, really bad osteoarthritis, and neuropathy,” Erin reports. “The list goes on and on. I even had a knee replacement that didn’t go well, and now I have scar tissue pushing on the nerves.

“The bottom line is that I’m a hot mess. For years my body has felt like it’s falling apart on me. It got so bad about nine years ago that I had to give up my job and go on disability because I couldn’t do some of the work anymore.

“I was always dropping a pen because of the pain in my hands. My neck would hurt from sitting while on the phone and typing at the same time. It became too painful to even do temp work, which I tried for a while and liked but had to give up.”

Erin says she’s had more bad days than good. In recent years, however, Erin has been enjoying more good days thanks to the care she’s received from Majid R. Khalaf, MD, of Spine & Joint Treatment Center.

Pain Management Specialist

Dr. Khalaf specializes in minimal and interventional treatments and procedures for pain. Erin was referred to him in 2007 by her primary care physician, who was limited in his ability to treat her array of health issues.

“The problem was that my primary care physician was only allowed to give me three trigger point injections at a time, and I needed more than that,” Erin reveals. “I needed about 12, so my doctor referred me to Dr. Khalaf.”

Also known as a TPI, a trigger point injection is used to treat fibromyalgia and painful knots of muscles in the arms, legs, lower back and neck. By injecting a small amount of anesthetic and steroid into areas called trigger points, the pain is relieved.

In treating Erin, Dr. Khalaf eventually discovered that injections of a cocktail of two anesthetics that work on different time schedules and “a tiny amount” of steroids worked best in alleviating her pain and discomfort.

“We’ve worked over the years to get the medication just right, and now I get injections twice a week for my fibromyalgia and injections once every two weeks for the other issues I have,” Erin reveals.

Dr. Khalaf says treating fibromyalgia can be challenging because the pain it causes has a tendency to jump from one area of the body to another. That has definitely been the case with Erin, he says.

“One day, she’ll come in for pain in her lower back and then sometimes it’s in her thighs,” Dr. Khalaf confirms. “Sometimes it’s in her shoulders or in the middle of her thoracic area. It’s all over her body.”

Feel the Heat

Dr. Khalaf initially treated Erin for neck and shoulder pain resulting from a failed neck surgery. He used radiofrequency ablation, where an electrical current produced by a radio wave heats a spot on a nerve to stop it from sending pain signals to the brain. 

“Her neck is a lot better now,” Dr. Khalaf reports. “She doesn’t even complain about her neck, except for the areas where the fibromyalgia causes her pain, which is around the shoulder area in the trapezius muscle and the middle of her back and thoracic area. 

“For that we do the trigger point injections. The unfortunate thing is that we can’t cure this disorder. We can only help someone manage their pain. And there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to it because everyone is different.”

When Erin first visited Dr. Khalaf, her quality of life was greatly diminished because of the horrendous pain. She has now regained the ability to live the active life she desires, albeit in small doses. Erin again does yardwork and gardening, goes to the gym and walks. She also occasionally rides her bicycle and participates in water aerobics.

 “And it’s all thanks to Dr. Khalaf that I can do any of that. He’s fantastic and so is everyone on his staff. I love them all, and they’ve become like family to me. They’re all terrific people,” she says.

“I couldn’t be happier with the care that I receive there because Dr. Khalaf doesn’t just treat your symptoms. If you go in and tell him your pinky hurts, he’s going to find out why your pinky hurts and treat that. Dr. Khalaf digs and digs until he finds out what’s causing the problem, then he treats the cause. 

“He listens so well. I absolutely think the world of him.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js
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