Chronic Pain Solutions

The following is a republishing of the article on Premier Pain’s Carmen Quiñones, MD that is featured in this month’s Monmouth edition of The County WomanMagazine.

Dr. Carmen M. Quiñones is a Board Certified Interventional Pain Management Physician who has been practicing in New Jersey since 2006.

She successfully treats many conditions, including spinal stenosis, degenerative disc diseases, whiplash injuries and sciatica. Focused on studying the science of spine and musculoskeletal disorders, her specialty is in interventional pain management modalities, including lumbar epidurals, steroid injections, facet joint nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, and trials with spinal cord stimulators.

Currently practicing at Premier Pain Centers’ Shrewsbury, East Brunswick, and Freehold pain management offices, she is dedicated to enhancing her patient’s quality of life. Dr. Quiñones also sees patients with osteoarthritis and conditions associated with joint and nerve pain. “As a physiatrist, I diagnose muscle, nerve, and bone disease and specialize in non-surgical treatment. I felt that further training in interventional pain management would optimize the care of my patients.”

One of the most successful methods of treatment she works with is lumbar epidural steroid injections and nerve blocks. They are usually done for conditions such as low back pain radiating to the leg (“sciatica or radiculopathy”). These conditions are commonly caused by spinal stenosis or a bulging disc putting pressure on the nerve. The lumbar epidural steroid injection is a minimally invasive procedure where a steroid is injected in the space between the vertebra and the meninges covering the spinal cord. “The steroid and local anesthetic will help to decrease inflammation and therefore relieve pain. The pain relief may last from days to years. This will allow the patient to resume their normal activities including an exercise program.”

Spinal cord stimulation is an innovative approach frequently used to treat conditions such as chronic lumbar radiculopathy, complex regional pain syndrome and failed back surgery syndrome. The procedure is done after the patient has failed conservative treatment, such as physical therapy, medication and therapeutic injections. The stimulator provides pain relief by transmitting mild electrical impulses to the spinal cord. “The stimulation interrupts the pain signals going into the brain. The patient will experience a pleasant tingling sensation in the area where the pain is felt.

The procedure begins with a trial of the stimulator. This will help determine if the procedure is going to be successful. The trial is done in an outpatient setting,” she adds. The trial leads will be inserted percutaneously into the epidural space. The leads are properly positioned until the patient reaches stimulation in the affected areas. The leads will be connected to an external device and the patient will be sent home. In three to five days the patient will return to the office and the leads are removed. If the patient achieves at least 50% pain relief, then the leads will be implanted permanently, which will require a minimal surgery.

There are many facets that set Premier Pain Centers apart from other practices. “Our practice provides compassionate, quality and state-of-the-art care through an integrated team of physicians and allied-health professionals. Our physicians take a leadership role in the advancement of the science of interventional pain medicine. As an expert in musculoskeletal disorders, my goal is to provide pain relief, and most of all, quality of life.”

Many of Dr. Quiñones’ patients describe their pain as being acute (as opposed to chronic). The main difference between chronic and acute spinal related pains and the different methods for treatment are important to understand. She explains, “Acute pain is when the pain is present for less than three months and is usually related to acute tissue damage whether it is post-surgical, herniated disc or any injury. Chronic pain refers to pain that has been present for more than six months. The treatment for acute and chronic pain often overlaps in the early stages.”

Dr. Quiñones believes the most challenging aspect of her profession is to create community awareness that there are options for people who suffer from chronic pain. But with a great challenge comes her greatest reward: leading her patients to a pain free life.