This month marks the return of Dr. Rami Rustum as a columnist in The Valley Patriot. We sat down with Dr. Rustum last week to talk about what does, and what makes Merrimack Valley Pain Management Associates different from other pain clinics.
Dr. Rustum was born and raised in Syria where he eventually went to medical school. “I came to the U.S. for a research fellowship at Brigham and Women’s hospital and Harvard Medical School in 1995. I moved to my residency in anesthesia at Tufts University.”
After finishing his residency in anesthesia he went back to Brigham and Women’s for a 2 year fellowship in pain management. That’s when he got a job offer from the Lawrence General Hospital’s Department of Anesthesia.
“So, I joined LGH in 2003 and established intervention team services (with my other colleagues) to take the pain clinic to the next level of cutting edge procedures not being offered in the area at that time, such as; pain pump implants, spinal cord stimulator implants for people who suffer from chronic back pain following multiple back surgeries or nerve damage.”
Dr. Rustum stayed at LGH until 2009, and then moved to a private practice in Lawrence and established the Merrimack Valley Pain Management Center serving valley residents and beyond.
THE PAIN MANAGEMENT CLINIC
“Despite some hospitals having pain training, as a specialty it is still evolving and still on the rise. Pain is usually known as a symptom that can be the disease by itself, such as kidney disease, hypertension, etc. It is very important to know that pain is the second biggest reason people visit any physician’s office. Pain is costing society up to $80B a year between treatment and lost days of work. But, most importantly, it’s probably the single most medical condition that has a social and economical effect on the patient and their family. Meaning, someone with hypertension has to avoid certain medication, has a strict diet, and they can still work. But with pain, the pain will debilitate the patient in a vicious circle where they may exhibit the symptoms of depression. So, the pain is hurting the person physically, but also the person’s economic productivity and the people around them.”
“In short what people need to recognize, is that this is a medical and social problem which should be reported as soon as it happens.Then, it should be worked on or addressed by the caregiver and taken seriously to prevent possible negative consequences.”
MERRIMACK PAIN MAKING IT BETTER
“Every patient is a unique case. Every patient is evaluated in a comprehensive way. Meaning, we need to evaluate his general health condition, we need to know his medications, we need to learn about his environment at home and work, because this is part of pain treatment. Pain can be affected by a person’s environment and can affect a person’s environment. So, this is important to know.”
“In my opinion, to be successful in treating the patient who comes in with a chronic pain complaint, we should be able to provide a variety of treatment options and not be limited to one single treatment. What I mean by this, is that a lot of patients I see tell me they went to another pain clinic that told them they only do injections and the patient said it didn’t work. So, they are skeptical. Some say, ‘I went to a clinic and they seemed like chiropractors cracking backs, but give no pain medications or treatment.’”
“A successful pain management clinic or center should offer a variety of treatments based on the condition of the individual patient.”
COME HERE EXPECT MORE
“Patients who come to us should expect their problem to be addressed with a series of options. Then, the evaluating physician needs to offer them the most appropriate treatments. However, the biggest obstacle we see is patients coming in requesting specific treatments, like medications, or they will come to the clinic under the impression that we only dispense meds, namely narcotics. Some come with the impression that a pain clinic is not a pleasant place, as they heard from neighbors or relatives that they had injections or some other procedures at other clinics and it crippled them.”
“When we feel that we have a case which could benefit from injections and it is safe to do, we tell our patients to accept a second opinion at another clinic and we will even help arrange for them to get that second opinion.”
“Patients who come to the pain clinic are usually patients who suffer from chronic pain, meaning they have pain conditions which have been happening for at least four to six months. However, if a patient who just underwent surgery is complaining about what could be incisional pain, (this is called acute or recent pain), that is something that should be taken care of by a surgeon.”
“In our pain clinic, we manage a variety of cases not limited to spine injuries, but also including; abdominal pain, pelvic pain in men and women, cancer pain, headaches, and in some selective cases we try to help by managing or regulating the existing pain medication regimen as prescribed by the primary care physician or treating physician.”
“We offer what we call head to toe treatment. In most cases, other pain clinics just do back injections but we do everything.”
“The last thing is that the Merrimack Valley Pain Management Center is proudly affiliated with prestigious pain centers in Boston like; Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel, and the Deaconess Medical Center where we can always help arrange for further evaluations or second opinions if needed. We are affiliated with top spine surgeons at Harvard Med School and BU.
Finally we always strive to serve patients in the Merrimack Valley area and beyond, who are looking for one thing: excellence in service to the patient.