The Painless Life

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How an island pain management specialist offers minimally-invasive approaches that aim to improve quality of life without the need for undergoing major surgery

Thanks to advances in medicine and technology, people are overcoming medical issues that would once have greatly impacted their daily lives or detracted from their lifestyles. And, unlike years ago when surgery or pain medications were often the only option for those suffering from pain, newer, minimally-invasive treatment options from pain management specialists have greatly benefitted recovery outcomes.

Although the practice of mitigating pain can be traced back centuries, it was during the late 90s that pain was recognized as a condition that needed to be treated independently. Commonly referred to as “pain management” or “pain medicine,” this field is a growing medical specialty dedicated to treating acute, sub-acute and chronic discomfort. Its focus on minimally-invasive approaches aimed to improve quality of life as well as assisting patients with the return to everyday activities without the need for undergoing major surgery.

“The field of minimally-invasive pain management is constantly evolving,” said Dr. Kenneth B. Chapman, MD, Pain Management Specialist and Director of Pain Management at Staten Island University Hospital. His state-of-the-art practice-The Spine and Pain Institute of New York-utilizes a variety of minimally-invasive treatment modalities for spinal stenosis, sciatica, lower back pain, neck and joint pain, and other complex syndromes. He also treats painful peripheral neuropathies, facial neuralgias, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), and other intractable pain syndromes. Many of the treatments he and the other doctors in his office employ offer various options for avoiding or delaying surgery. “In the future, I predict we will be able to treat most spine-related pain without open surgery, and are already on our way to this goal,” he explained.

Among the most common patient complaints Dr. Chapman treats are back and neck pain, as well as that related to arthritis, and he explained that pain is generally classified as being acute or chronic: acute beginning suddenly and is often quite severe, while sub-acute is defined as ranging somewhere between acute and chronic. Depending on the cause, the acute type may last anywhere from three to six months. Chronic pain is persistent and may be classified as either mild or severe, and is defined as that which lasts for more than six months. If not treated appropriately, acute pain can progress to chronic, and, “…is [then] typically more difficult to treat,” Chapman added.

Management fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio and Anesthesiology residency at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center here in the city. At the Cleveland Clinic, he was nominated Chief Fellow and honored with the Ethlene R. Smith award for Most Outstanding Fellow. He is a graduate of Curtis High School, where he won the Andrew Barberi Award for Top Student Athlete on Staten Island for his prowess in football.

Although The Spine and Pain Institute of New York often treats patients in their seventies and eighties, it also has a younger patient base in its thirties and forties. “As we age, our body starts to degenerate and certain pain symptoms result, such as pinched nerves and arthritis of the spine,” Chapman said. Thanks to advanced therapies such as spinal cord stimulation, endoscopic selective discectomy and kyphoplasty, the institute has improved many lives, allowing them to return to active, pain-free lifestyles. Its team of doctors often treats patients who suffer from pain related to herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, vertebral compression fractures, failed spine surgery, and cancer-related pain, to name a few conditions. Treatments include Epidural Steroid Injections for herniated discs and sciatica pain, Radiofrequency Ablation of nerves for arthritis related pain, kyphoplasty (which involves the placement of a cement-like substance into a fractured vertebrae), and spinal cord stimulation (in which a pain-reducing device is placed in the spine, mostly for patients who have had spine surgery and persistent pain). Depending on the cause, a specific plan is developed for each patient, dependent upon their unique complaints, physical findings, radiological study results, and response to previous injections. Success has also been achieved in treating patients who have previously deteriorated while under the care of other specialists. Many are surprised to learn that when combined with one or more therapies, a treatment that previously failed is now effective.

“We take pride in our care and the level of service we’re delivering, and I think it shows,” said Chapman of his practice, which he started more than six years ago. Although there are several other pain management practices on Staten Island, considering the Borough’s large population, he believes that Staten Island’s community remains underserved in this critical category of care.

Education plays an integral part in the practice. “Our goal is to be a leader in the field with regard to education and research in the field of pain management,” said Chapman, who is involved in organizations such as the American Society of Interventional Pain Practitioners and the World Institute of Pain. “I participate in training doctors to perform certain advanced procedures such as spinal cord stimulation, kyphoplasty, and discectomy procedures.” He is also a regular instructor for the Cleveland Clinic’s continuing medical education courses for pain management specialists and The World Institute of Pain conferences, serves as a board examiner for the Pain Management Board exam, and has been honored with several awards such as the New York Patient’s Choice Award.

Siding With the Underdog Chapman chose this area of expertise because he didn’t want to see patients undergo procedures and surgeries yet still suffer from pain. While in training, he saw that this was too often the case, that once a problem was “fixed,” doctors and other medical personnel tended to not listen to patient complaints. “I always sided with those patients I saw as the underdogs,” he confided. He believes advances in pain medicine improve thousands of lives and that pain management offers many ways to control pain and improve quality of life. This specialist has certainly found his calling. “I’m a very lucky person. I get to help people who come in with severe pain. What can possibly be more rewarding than helping with that?”

Photos By Mike Shane

The Spine and Pain
Institute of New York
1534 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10314


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