Meet Our Newest Doctor: Dr. Hellman, Chronic Pain Specialist
By Dr. Matthew Hellman
My name is Dr. Matthew Hellman, and I am so excited to be one of APC’s newest practitioners. I specialize in interventional pain medicine, where I use a multimodal approach to help patients manage their chronic pain. Whether this is through surgical interventions or implants, opioid or non-opioid medicine, or working with physical therapists and chiropractors, I am committed to attacking my patients’ pain from all sides, to find what works for them.
Although I’ve only been with Advanced Pain Care for about six weeks, I can already say that it’s one of my favorite clinic experiences I’ve had. The culture here is wonderful and collaborative, and I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my colleagues on a much more intimate basis, through our dinners and meetings. I’m looking forward to growing my patients, establishing ongoing care relationships with them, and working with my peers to maximize what APC can offer.
My Background And Why I Went Into Chronic Pain Management
I’m originally from the Washington D.C. area, although I’ve moved around pretty extensively in my adult life! Austin is the eighth city I’ve lived in, but I plan to stay here for a long time. As soon as I visited this city for the first time, I could feel that it was the right place for me. I instantly connected with the community here, and the feel of the city.
I went into pain management because of my brush with overwhelming pain at a very young age. When I was 12 years old, I fell while playing hockey and sustained a back injury. I knew something was wrong right away, as pain shot into my legs like electric shocks. Sure enough, I had slipped a disk, amongst a few other things.
Luckily, I was young enough that a good amount of physical therapy helped me heal almost completely. However, the experience acquainted me with the kind of daily pain that overrides all of your other emotions and feelings. If it’s not managed or treated well, pain like that can take over your life. That experience is part of what inspired me to help others manage their daily and chronic pain.
After I did my undergrad at Duke studying Biomedical Engineering, I researched at Walter Reed for a year, working on AI software. However, I decided to change track and went to medical school at VCU in Virginia. Afterward, I did my residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and then my fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.
At this point, I thought that anesthesia was my calling and was focusing on that. However, during my anesthesia residency, I got to do a couple of months of clinic work in the pain medicine clinic at my hospital.
In anesthesia, you only meet your patients for a few minutes before their surgery or procedure when you’re administering the anesthetics and telling them what’s going to happen. After the surgery, you deliver them safely to the recovery area, but you don’t get to see them again.
What I enjoyed about the pain medicine clinic months was that I got to see some of these same patients down the line and keep tabs on their progress.
I got to see how my decisions were affecting their day-to-day life and how their treatment was benefiting them and improving their quality of life. I realized that I was invested in that relationship aspect of care and that I wanted to change tracks and work in chronic pain management so that I could build these stronger relationships with patients, and help them for a longer period.
The APC Difference: Why Being Multi-Disciplinary Matters When Treating Chronic Pain From A Doctor’s Perspective
APC is the first practice I’ve been a part of that has orthopedics, neurosurgery, rheumatology, and addiction medicine specialists, all housed under the same roof. When I see a new patient, I can see the notes from their other doctors immediately. There’s no lag or waiting period, as there often is when information is transferred between clinics. This means that I am well-equipped to make informed care decisions from our first meeting. If I need to clarify anything with other doctors and practitioners, it’s easy to grab them in the hallway or at lunch and ask a few questions.
I get to see my fellow clinicians on a much more regular basis than any clinic I’ve ever worked at, and collaboration and communication are encouraged. I love getting to know my colleagues and especially enjoy how this process enables us to be better at our jobs and provide a higher standard of care.
Another amazing aspect of APC is their easy to use and efficient phone system. To those outside of the medical field, it may seem like an insignificant thing to mention, but it does make a difference. Patients can easily manage the phone tree menu, and someone will contact them back quickly. Plus, I get any messages left for me by my patients almost instantly, and can rapidly respond to whatever issues or questions they may have.
For folks that suffer from chronic pain, the medical system, as they’ve experienced it, can easily be frustrating. They may have tons of different appointments all over the city, have issues getting their records transferred, and even basic problems contacting their doctors. APC makes this process seamless and alleviates a lot of stressors for our patients.
At APC, we fully evaluate the patient. They may have just been focusing on their major pain, which makes sense, but we take a step back and re-examine everything to put the whole puzzle together. Pain often comes from several factors and is exacerbated by certain lifestyles and behaviors. We take a look at the whole person and work to identify everything that could help them on the road to a pain-free life.
My Future Goals At APC
Looking forward, I am excited about making a difference in this community. Being a part of APC, I feel like I have the chance to reach all demographics of patients in this area and work with patients from all walks of life.
Many of my patients spend a lot of time outside, being active and using their bodies, which I think is especially unique to this area and this community. Whether they’re working on their ranches, going hiking, practicing sports with friends, or just living their lives authentically. I’m thrilled to help my patients to continue their lifestyles.
When you’re waking up and your first thought is ‘My leg hurts,’ or, ’My back is killing me’, and knowing that it’s going to be an hour before you can get on with the day, because you’ve got to take a pill and wait for it to kick in, you aren’t living with the quality of life you deserve.
My goal for you is that you can wake up, get up, and just go right away. Whether it’s your job or enjoying your time with your family and friends, it’s all about quality. I am committed to helping you enjoy your time and live the life you envision for yourself.
I’m so excited to be a part of APC, and am looking forward to meeting the incredible community. If you’re located near me in Kyle, you can schedule an appointment with me here, or if you’re looking for a different location, find us closest to you. Hope to see you soon!