Patient Resource Center

Our goal is to engage patients who endure chronic pain and assist them in managing their health conditions. To do this, we will work with you to understand your unique situation. We pursue the optimal treatment you will need in order to improve functionality and quality of life.

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The Colorado Pain Society is dedicated to the improved health of individuals with all kinds of pain concerns. A pain specialist has been thoroughly trained in the techniques to properly evaluate and manage pain disorders. If you're currently experiencing pain, a pain specialist may be able to assist you in decreasing your pain and improving your functionality. Achieving a healthy lifestyle is our goal for every one of our patients.

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Glossary of Pain Terms

Pain due to a stimulus that does not normally provoke pain. For example, stroking the skin lightly with clothes or cotton wool will produce pain.
Disruption in normal flow of sensory information along nerve to brain, creating a confusion for the brain, which is interpreted as a constant , uniquely disabling pain state which is highly resistant to normal forms of medical therapy. The syndrome appears as sustained burning pain, allodynia and hyperpathia after a traumatic nerve lesion, often combined with vasomotor and sudomotor dysfunction and later trophic changes.
Unpleasant abnormal sensations, whether spontaneous or evoked.
The perception of a painful stimulus as more painful than normal.
Pain in the distribution of a nerve or nerves.
Neuropathic pain is pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system. For example, pain following shingles, an amputation, or spinal cord trauma. Pain that occurs in patients with diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also be neuropathic.
An abnormal sensation (such as burning, prickling formication), whether spontaneous or evoked.
A painful, inflammatory disease of unknown origin that causes the sacroiliac joints and spinal vertebrae to fuse (ankylose) together.
A disease or condition where dense scar tissue forms around the nerves of the spine causing symptoms such as burning pain, pins and needles, numbness and weakness.
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) formerly reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), "causalgia", or reflex neurovascular dystrophy (RND) is an amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome (AMPS). It is a chronic systemic disease characterized by severe pain, swelling, and changes in the skin. CRPS often worsens over time. It may initially affect an arm or leg and spread throughout the body; 35% of people report symptoms throughout their whole body. Other potential effects include: systemic autonomic dysregulation; neurogenic edema; musculoskeletal, endocrine, or dermatological manifestations; and changes in urological or gastrointestinal function.
The discs undergo a process of change from a supple, flexible structure that allows movement and acts as a cushion, to a stiff and rigid one that restricts the amount of movement and is a less effective cushion. This process can start as early as the 20th to 30th year of life and by the 60th year it would be a universal finding on x-ray examination. Many people will not have any symptoms.
An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that affects the way a person eats, sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things. Depression is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with depression cannot merely 'pull themselves together' and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression.
A disease characterized by chronic pain, stiffness, and tenderness of muscles, tendons, and joints, without detectable inflammation. Fibromyalgia does not cause body damage or deformity. However, undue fatigue plagues 90 percent of patients with fibromyalgia. Sleep disorder is also common in patients with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia can be associated with other rheumatic conditions, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can occur with fibromyalgia.
The bulging through of a part of the body e.g. the nucleus pulposus can herniate through the annulus fibrosus.
The most common type of vascular headache involving abnormal sensitivity of arteries in the brain to various triggers resulting in rapid changes in the artery size due to spasm (constriction). Other arteries in the brain and scalp then open (dilate), and throbbing pain is perceived in the head.
Scar tissue formation around the dura. This can be as a result of natural degenerative processes or of invasive treatments, such as surgery.
Peripheral neuropathy, a result of damage to your peripheral nerves (nerves in the arms, legs, and trunk), often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet. It can also affect other areas of your body.
A sideways curvature of the spine, which can be caused by a congenital deformity or a temporary reaction caused by muscle spasm.
Strictly speaking it is pain along the length of the sciatic nerve that is down the back of the thigh, through the calf and into the foot. It is sometimes used more loosely to describe any leg symptoms.
Narrowing of the width of the canal causing pressure on the nerve held within it. This can occur in the central spinal canal and in the lateral (side) nerve root canals.
Inflammation of any of the spinal vertebrae. This can be because of injury, infection or rheumatoid disease (see Ankylosing Spondylitis).
A condition where one vertebra slips out of alignment with another. Most common is the fourth over the fifth lumbar vertebra or the fifth over the sacrum. The causes can be congenital or due to structural defects,degenerative changes and injury. Some people have it without symptoms, but others have major pain and nerve-related symptoms. Called retrolisthesis if the slippage is backwards.
A crack in the neural arch of the vertebra that can predispose to a Spondylolisthesis. This can be congenital, caused by over-use or found in people with a history of falls. Can be asymptomatic.
A condition of the spine where the discs have narrowed and osteophytes have formed at the junction of the disc and vertebra. This can lead to stiffness and eventually fixation of the joint.
Epidurals are given for the relief of leg pain. A cocktail of drugs containing a corticosteroid and a local anaesthetic is injected into the epidural space, between the bone and the membrane that encloses the spinal cord.
A facet joint injection involves injecting a small amount of local anesthetic and steroid medication into the facet joint. This can also be done with PRP or stem cell therapy. Facet joints are found throughout the neck and back. This procedure numbs the area and helps block the pain. Using a facet joint injection can help the patient better tolerate rehabilitation therapies.
Opioids are a group of medicines that come from the opium poppy or are closely chemically related to it. Opioids have been used for many years for managing pain. There are many different medicines in this group and differ in the ways that they can be used and in their strengths. Some can be taken by mouth, and others are used by applying a patch to the skin. Opioids have traditionally been classified as weak or strong.
Targets for stimulation usually include the brain and spinal cord, but can also include the peripheral and autonomic nerves as well. Examples include spinal cord stimulation, deep brain stimulation, and cortical stimulation.
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) delivers therapeutic doses of electrical current to the spinal cord for the management of neuropathic pain. The most common indications include post-laminectomy syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), ischemic limb pain, and angina. There are scattered reports regarding the treatment of intractable pain due to other causes including visceral/abdominal pain, cervical neuritis pain, spinal cord injury pain, post-herpetic neuralgia, and neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. Experience suggests that, in selected patients, SCS can produce at least 50% pain relief in 50%-60% of the implanted patients. Interestingly, with the proper follow-up care, these results can be maintained over several years.
An old form of conservative treatment that attempts to relieve pain by stretching the Spine, in part or as a whole. It can be done by hand or with a variety of machines, some of which turn you upside down.
A targeted drug delivery system delivers pain medication directly to the fluid around the spinal cord, in an area called the intrathecal space.The system includes a drug pump that is connected to a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. Both the pump and the catheter are fully implanted under the skin.Because the pump releases medication directly to the pain receptors near the spine instead of going through your circulatory system, pain relief can be achieved with a small fraction of the oral medication dose.
These may be radio-isotope type (as safe as an x-ray) for tumours, infections and some fractures, or, ultrasound type for osteoporosis and some soft tissue injuries.
Computed tomography, also called a CAT scan. This is sophisticated x-ray technique for showing bone detail primarily that is performed as an outpatient procedure in the scanning unit. It is a painless procedure and takes an average of twenty minutes. Cross-sectional images are produced from information received through beams of x-rays going through the body.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging involves a highly technical scanner that uses magnetic fields and computer technology to generate images of the internal anatomy of the body, including discs and nerve roots. It is a painless procedure, although like CT scans, people with claustrophobia may find it difficult. Most scanners have a panic button and radiologists will talk you through the process. Some units may have open scanners. A contrast medium (Gadolinium) can be used intravenously to gain clarity of image, especially with those who have already undergone back surgery.
A water-soluble, radiopaque dye is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid. This allows nerve tissue to be viewed on x-ray and enables a doctor to trace any nerve entrapment. This is an invasive procedure that many people report to be unpleasant!
The tough, fibrous outer casing of the intervertebral disc that holds the nucleus pulposus in place.
Another name for the facet joint.
This term describes the neck, which is made up of seven vertebrae.
This is the last bone of the spine that is made up of four tiny, fused vertebrae.
One of the 23 shock-absorbing, pads that act as spacers of the vertebrae. Sometimes referred to as inter-vertebral disc. See annulus fibrosus, nucleus pulposus and vertebral endplates.
As one vertebra sits on another the top of one and the bottom of the other meet at two places referred to as the facet joints. They are synovial joints, that is they are encapsulated and produce a lubricating fluid.
These are bands of fibrous tissue that bind a joint and control its range of movement.
The start of the nerve as it leaves the spinal cord or cauda equina and passes through the left and right foramen to serve an area of the body.
The area of the spine between the lumbar vertebrae and the coccyx, which consists of 5 fused vertebrae.
The hole that runs the length of the spine containing the spinal cord, its covering and the nerves that leave it in pairs at each level of vertebrae.
The region of the spine between the neck and the lumbar vertebrae. The ribs connect with the 12 thoracic vertebrae.
The top and bottom of the vertebral body that comes into contact with the disc.
The front of a body part.
On both sides of the bodv.
Being present at birth.
This describes any nonsurgical treatment of back pain e.g. physical therapies, pain killers, traction, exercises, massage.
The process of change, usually with age, in bone or soft tissue. Sometimes referred to as 'wear and tear'.
An area of the skin that is known to be served by a specific spinal nerve.
The concave curve found in the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine. Can be a deformity if it is excessive.
This is extra bone growth on the edges of the vertebrae which can cause narrowing of the nerve canals.
The 33 bones of the spine, 24 of which are single and jointed, the others being fused.