Chronic Pain Can Occur at Any Age — How Yolanda Overcame Hers
By Dr. Raphael Ye
Whether you’re experiencing pain for the first time — or have been managing it for years — you might be under the false impression that pain is part of your life forever.
But at Advanced Pain Care, we don’t think anyone is beyond help in achieving lasting pain relief.
When I met Yolanda, she was one of those patients who thought pain was just a part of life. After a car accident in 2010, she began suffering from chronic pain in her lower back and legs.
That pain persisted as she tried multiple treatments over six years.
So when she started care at APC, she naturally assumed she would continue with her existing pain management plan — even though it was only providing minimal relief.
I’ve seen plenty of patients like Yolanda. I don’t blame you for thinking that minimal pain is better than the alternative. I don’t expect you to know about all the latest treatments in the medical field.
That’s my job, not yours.
So that’s why talking to you is a critical first step in determining your pain treatment. I want to hear what’s currently working, and where there’s room for improvement.
These conversations are opportunities to educate you on all the options that are available. More often than not, there’s an option APC offers that you haven’t heard of or tried yet.
In Yolanda’s case, discussing her options turned out to be the ultimate game-changer in finding pain relief.
Yolanda came to APC after six years at another pain management group.
She had been taking medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone, and trying treatments like epidural steroid injections and lumbar radiofrequency ablations. But the pain in her lower back and legs wouldn’t subside.
She got used to minimal pain relief, which made her believe that the pain would never go away.
I wanted to change that mentality. But I didn’t want to rock the boat too much, especially so early in our doctor-patient relationship. Building trust takes time, and I understand that process.
Yolanda is in her 30’s, which is very young to be living with this level of chronic pain. So, I wanted to encourage her to pursue alternatives that could bring her lasting pain relief.
For many patients like Yolanda, this is a decision-making process that takes time. I don’t rush you into dramatic changes, and I certainly didn’t do that with Yolanda, either.
Initially, she was most comfortable making small adjustments to her existing pain management. I continued to explain to her what the other options were, and we began giving those a try.
We tried different types of steroid injections from different angles, and at different levels.
But after the third injection, she didn’t experience any significant pain relief.
I didn’t want her to rely on hydrocodone indefinitely. But the injections weren’t effective enough to justify taking her off hydrocodone yet.
During this trial and error period, Yolanda and I were building trust. I like to think of it as planting seeds of hope. Over time those seeds produce enough confidence in my patients that they want to try something different.
And that’s where Yolanda found herself. The more we discussed other options, the more excited she got by the prospect that something new could work better for her.
Spinal Cord Stimulator
I suggested she try a trial implant of the spinal cord stimulator.
Even though she was excited by that option, it’s still not an easy decision to have something electronic implanted inside you.
We understand that’s a big leap for some patients. So we encouraged her to talk to our clinical navigators, whose main focus is educating our patients on these surgical procedures in great detail and answering their questions.
We don’t want our patients to feel like they’re being rushed into a decision.
I think taking that time to understand the stimulator and what her experience would be like is what helped Yolanda feel confident to try the trial implant.
Within two to three months, Yolanda really noticed a difference in how the stimulator improved her pain in both her lower back and legs.
And now, nearly two years later, she has reduced her opioid consumption and she only needs to come into our office every three months or so. She doesn’t require continuous monitoring like did had before.
I love seeing my patients. But ironically, it’s when I see them less that I know their life has improved.
This level of independence — from medications and office visits — is what we want for our patients. We don’t want you held prisoner by your pain. We want you out enjoying your life.
The Benefits of APC Care
For a private practice pain management group, we have a lot of resources, which I think is very beneficial for our patients. You don’t have to drive all over town going to various specialists for referrals. We have rheumatologists and orthopedic surgeons on staff. It’s all here at APC.
Since we’re all under the same proverbial roof, it’s easy for us to collaborate with each other and get questions answered quickly.
Recently I had at least two or three patients who I wanted to see my colleagues from other specialties.
Those patients were able to schedule those appointments during their checkout and get seen the following week.
That makes it a more convenient experience for the patient. You’re not bounced around from referral to referral or worrying about whether your insurance covers all of it.
This also makes the turnaround time from our patient evaluations quicker. So we’ll have a plan a little bit sooner too.
I have multiple patients that live near the Cedar Park/Leander location, but they work elsewhere, maybe nearer the Round Rock location or Central Austin or South Austin area. So I know that having multiple locations makes it very convenient for our patients.
If you want to transfer locations — which happens pretty frequently — because of your work or living situation, you can easily stay within the APC network.
All locations can access your records. And we can easily communicate with one another.
Why I Practice Pain Management
Medicine was a career change for me. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering. I spent the first part of my career in corporate America, working across the country as a consultant.
But I realized I wanted to do work that was more meaningful, that impacted people in a more direct and positive way.
So I went to medical school and got into the anesthesiology field, and that’s where I learned about this special field of pain management.
I got a glimpse into this type of patient interaction that could make somebody’s life better, maybe change the course of their life for the better. That’s what inspired me to pursue this field of work.
My dedication to personalized patient care continues to be a part of my practice and what makes me such a great fit for the APC community.