“Living with pain is not something anyone wants to settle for, and we don’t have to,” Dr. Cameron Cunningham told me. If chronic pain is a problem you’re dealing with and you want to improve your quality of life and get back to doing things you love, you should consider Southeast Pain and Spine Care as your next step, not the last resort. Getting a thorough evaluation and developing an appropriate treatment plan might eliminate the need for surgery—it doesn’t have to be inevitable.
The specialists of Southeast Pain and Spine Care offer alternatives to surgery that can benefit anyone who is suffering with chronic pain, especially those who cannot have surgery, are advanced in age, and have chronic illnesses. “We prioritize treatment options that are less invasive and less reliant on high-risk medications,” Dr. Cunningham said. “We believe there’s been a shift over the last five years. We’ve learned how detrimental to individuals and society over-use and abuse of opioids can be—we’ve changed our approach. We pay critical attention whenever we believe that pain medication would be the treatment of choice.”
With dual specialization in anesthesiology and pain management, Dr. Cameron Cunningham is an expert in treating pain from head to toe. He brings a unique skill set from his training at the University of Missouri and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and is the newest addition to Southeast Pain and Spine Care’s practices in Valdese and Hickory. At both locations, Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Martin Evans, along with physician assistants Amy Tillison and Brandon Gregory, see patients from the greater Hickory region who need to address pain that limits their lifestyle or career. Amy and Brandon are integral to the team and work together with the physicians to develop treatment plans and manage medications that provide patients with the best possible care.
“Raising our level of patient care and customer service is important every day,” Dr. Evans said. “Some patients are younger, experiencing pain, and they have no idea what is causing it. We also see older patients who have suffered for years and may have tried several treatments with no relief. We listen to our patients and work closely with their primary care providers and our referral network to align each person’s treatment plan with their unique symptoms and level of pain.”
WHO NEEDS PAIN MANAGEMENT?
Patients who are helped at Southeast Pain and Spine Care come for many different reasons: arthritis, back pain, neck pain, sciatica, cancer pain, diabetic neuropathy, failed back surgery, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, and injuries. “Our referrals come from primary care physicians, chiropractors, surgeons, and other providers, but patients don’t need a doctor’s referral to see us,” Dr. Evans explained. “We’ve seen patients improve from needing a wheelchair or being bed bound to getting back into gardening or their golf game; they’ve started going back to church or work. When a patient tells me that they’ve gone fishing again—that’s the reason I do what I do.”
Dr. Evans explained pain management very simply: “Most people adjust their activities to correspond with their degree of pain, but a better goal is to improve your level of functioning so that you experience less pain. By addressing the cause of pain, we can treat and manage it. Even something simple, like playing with the grandkids again, can be quite an accomplishment.”
NON-INVASIVE PAIN MANAGEMENT
The specialists’ goal in pain management is to use interventional, non-surgical procedures with minimal medication whenever possible. Each patient receives a full physical exam, medical history review, and thorough assessment of their condition. This might include x-rays or MRI. “We need to learn what treatments have (or have not) been used in the past, and what their pain situation is currently,” Dr. Cameron continued. “We want patients to understand all their options, starting with the least invasive, such as lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and over-the-counter medications, before moving onto muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory medications, or neuro modulating medications. This allows patients to make informed decisions. If a patient’s pain level and degree of debilitation require taking their treatment to the next level, we offer joint injections, nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, peripheral nerve stimulation, and spinal cord stimulation. We prescribe these treatments when appropriate, and we see very good results.”
“I’ve been doing more peripheral nerve stimulation, a less invasive treatment,” Dr. Cunningham explained, “and a new procedure called basivertebral nerve ablation for low back pain that hasn’t responded to other injections. During my training, I saw how impactful the results can be. I don’t know of anyone else in the region performing this procedure and only a handful in North Carolina.” Some treatments may take several visits, and all are performed in-house at the Southeast Pain and Spine Care’s Blue Ridge Valdese and Hickory offices.
In some cases, a particularly painful condition might require a combination of treatments including prescription medications. There should not be a stigma in taking medicine for relief of chronic pain—it can be a life saver. For that reason, it is critical to work with one of the specialists at Southeast Pain and Spine Care to find the best treatment combination.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS
The Southeast Pain and Spine Care approach to pain management may include:
• Interventional Techniques are specialized procedures that include spinal cord stimulation, radiofrequency ablation, epidural steroid injections, joint injections, percutaneous discectomies, and many others.
• Medication Management assures that the type and frequency of medication used prevent over-medication but also ensures that the medications prescribed are providing relief.
• Rehabilitation—If indicated, patients are referred to our partner certified physical therapists to design a rehabilitation program specific to your needs.
• Referral—If surgery is indicated, both Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Evans will refer you to a specialist they recommend. “We want you to get the right care at the right time with the right doctor,” Dr. Cunningham explained. “We don’t want to jump over any important steps in getting you pain relief.”
Taking care of health issues before they get worse is important. Dr. Cunningham recommends a consultation so you can understand how to make lifestyle changes, like eating well, learning the right exercises and stretches to improve your range of motion, and maintaining a healthy weight. These types of changes can immediately begin improving your pain symptoms, because, as Dr. Cunningham reminded me, “If we don’t use it, we’ll lose it.” Seniors can join Medicare’s Silver Sneakers program for workout options and inspiration or take up walking, yoga, swimming, or a sport like golf.
LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE
“I know we give people hope,” Dr. Cunningham shared. “Everyone experiences pain sometime in their life—chronic pain can impact your life so all you want is relief and a return to normal. We can help get you get back to normal so you can enjoy your family, your hobbies, your work— all those activities you love.”
At Southeast Pain and Spine Care, people’s lives are changed for the better. Patients receive exceptional care without the need to travel to get it. In every case, the goal is to help patients achieve a new level of comfort, wellbeing, and quality of life. If you or someone you love needs relief from pain, make a call today and learn more. The right care can be life changing.
Southeast Pain & Spine Care