Two decades ago, Carol DeLange, 52, of Philadelphia led a very active life. Scuba diving, sky diving, mountain bike riding and rock climbing were just a few of the outdoor activities she loved. However, a serious car crash in 1990 changed that in an instant, leaving her in a state of chronic pain.
“I had severely injured three discs in my neck and needed surgery,” said Carol. “While the surgery did alleviate some of the numbness and tingling, the constant pain in my neck and back persisted. I tried everything. I’d been to an acupuncturist, chiropractor, massage therapist and I even received epidural injections—nothing worked.”
In 2011, more than 20 years after the initial accident, Carol was still suffering from chronic neck pain. She was losing all hope of ever being pain free. Then, a friend referred her to Michael Sabia, MD, Head of the Division of Pain Management at Cooper University Health Care.
“When I first saw Carol she could barely move her neck from side to side and the level of pain increased with certain movements,” said Dr. Sabia. “It was very important to conduct a complete background evaluation to really pinpoint the location that was generating the pain.”
Pain management specialists evaluate and treat patients with a variety of pain syndromes including acute pain, chronic pain, cancer pain and neuropathic pain to name a few. The most common condition that a pain medicine specialist treats is lower back pain. The treatment plan for these types of patients varies depending on their injury. Specialists can alleviate the pain with interventional injections, physical therapy modalities and medications. A board-certified pain management specialist is well-trained in anesthesiology, psychiatry, physiatry and neurology.
Upon evaluation, Dr. Sabia discovered that a few of the joints in Carol’s neck were inflamed and arthritic. A diagnostic test injection known as the cervical facet joint injection helped him identify the exact location of the painful joints.
“Once we located the painful joints with the facet injection, we were able to set her up for a radiofrequency ablation procedure, which burns off the inflamed nerves with the tip of a heated needle,” said Dr. Sabia. “Patients who undergo this ablation procedure usually find relief anywhere from six months to two years or even life long.”
For Carol, she has been pain free for almost two years now. She works full time and is able to do many of the things she used to love with little discomfort. She credits Cooper and Dr. Sabia for changing her life.
“You cannot imagine what it felt like to be completely pain free after suffering for more than twenty years with no relief,” said Carol. “Freedom from pain no matter what I do—exercise, mountain bike riding or even scuba diving. I cannot say enough nice things about Dr. Sabia and the Cooper staff. They gave me back my life.”