Monday, January 19, 2009

Take Control Over Chronic Pain

Chronic pain interferes with the daily lives of 76 million people in the U.S. and accounts for 50 million lost work days every year. For some, it means spending at least one quarter of their day resting and recuperating from normal activities. Others spend nearly half of each day in “down time” unable to rise from bed or function at all.

For Dorothy Bryson of Wheaton, the pain from sinus tarsi syndrome had been constant for at least seven years. “I had tried a lot of things to no avail. I had taken medications, been to doctors. It’s hard to cope with chronic pain and often friends and family just don’t understand what is wrong.”

When Pain Takes Control
“Patients who come for our programs may be unable to hold down a job, shop for groceries, or take care of their homes. Many have trouble walking more than a few minutes at a time,” according to Marianjoy’s Lisa Schwarz, PT, MHPE, OCS, ATC. “Family members and friends often end up helping the patient more and more…that’s a clear sign that the individual does not have control over the pain.”

While there isn’t a magic solution for chronic pain, there are options and there is hope. Dr. Jeffrey Oken, Marianjoy Medical Director and chronic pain specialist, explains it this way, “There may not be a “cure” for many who experience chronic pain, but research and experience clearly show that with the proper interdisciplinary approach to pain management, most patients can enjoy productive and satisfying lives by maximizing their function while learning ways to cope with pain.”

The Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center at Oakbrook Terrace offers two specialized programs designed to help individuals with chronic pain who want to learn ways to manage their pain and regain functionality. Both programs are designed for people who are willing to accept a “management” instead of “curative” philosophy for chronic pain.

The Pain Management Toolbox
“We like to use the visual analogy of a toolbox,” says Schwarz, Coordinator of the Integrative Pain Management Program. “Patients come to us not knowing where else to turn. They’ve tried other doctors, medications, and treatments, but nothing lasts and they don’t know where to turn or what to do…their toolbox is empty. As patients work with all the members of the Marianjoy team, they learn many new skills…ways to cope, manage the pain and move past it. Then when they are back to their daily lives, and the pain flares up or starts to consume them, they pull out their “toolbox” of pain management tools and choose whichever seems like it would work best under the circumstances.”

The coping mechanisms that patients learn at Marianjoy include a variety of exercises, deep breathing, meditation, stretching, etc.

Dorothy Bryson learned from the program that it’s all about taking control of your own life. “You have to alter your thinking and focus on what’s important. Sometimes the pain seems like it’s going to win, but that’s when you try one of your pain management tools.”

Full-Day and Half-Day Programs
The Comprehensive Pain Management Program at Marianjoy is a full day program that has been in existence for over 20 years and is the only CARF-accredited interdisciplinary pain program in Illinois. This 21-day outpatient program focuses on helping people manage chronic pain so they can be restored to a lifestyle of function and mobility.

Morning Solutions for Pain Management is a new program at Marianjoy that is less intense than the full day comprehensive program. Patients still come to Oakbrook Terrace for 21 days, but they spend only one half of the day in the program. Some people choose this program so they can continue to work at least part time.

Marianjoy’s pain programs benefit from the dedicated clinicians who make up the interdisciplinary team, including: a physiatrist who is board-certified in pain management, physical therapists who specialize in pain management, a psychologist, a nurse educator, a biofeedback specialist, and a case manager. As a team, the staff works with each individual to design a plan that addresses their unique experience with chronic pain.

Ultimately, both of the pain programs at Marianjoy aim to help people build confidence by returning control of their lives, increasing productivity and function, cultivating lifestyle behaviors that promote wellness, restoring an appropriate level of physical activity, improving self image, and achieving control over medications.

“I was referred to Dr. Oken and the pain program by my surgeon. Before I started in the program, I couldn’t lift or sit comfortably,” explained Marianjoy Pain Program patient Curtis Moore. “Now as I prepare to ‘graduate’ from the 21-day program, I am refreshed and feel very hopeful about the future. I do feel physically better, but that’s only part of it. I’ve learned to function better with the pain because I look at everything differently now. I am more conscious of what I do, and therefore make better decisions, which greatly improves the way I feel.”

“It all comes down to improving the person’s overall health and quality of life. Untreated chronic pain rarely gets better and can lead to other medical conditions,” according to Dr. Oken.

So how do you find out if the Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center’s programs are right for you? Patients can make an appointment for a chronic pain evaluation with Dr. Oken or one of the other Marianjoy Medical Group physiatrists at Oakbrook Terrace or our Wheaton location. If they feel you would benefit from one of the programs, a case manager will work with you and your insurance company to coordinate benefits.

For more information on Marianjoy’s pain programs, visit, or to make an appointment for an evaluation, call 630-909-6545.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jeffrey Oken, M.D.

Dr. Jeffrey Oken is the Medical Director for the Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center in Oakbrook Terrace and the Associate Medical Director for Marianjoy Physical Therapy and Outpatient Services.

He is also an assistant professor at Rush Medical College in Chicago and a lecturer for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Loyola University Medical School. Dr. Oken is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, pain medicine and spinal cord medicine.

Dr. Oken’s areas of clinical interest and expertise, in addition to chronic pain management, include: acupuncture, arthritis rehabilitation, sports rehabilitation, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, and electrodiagnosis.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists are medical doctors who:

  • Are experts at diagnosing and treating pain

  • Restore maximum function lost through injury, illness or disabling conditions

  • Treat the whole person, not just the problem area

  • Lead a team of medical professionals

  • Provide non-surgical treatments

  • Explain your medical problems and treatment plan

  • Work not only on treatment but also prevention

Rehabilitation physicians are nerve, muscle, and bone experts who treat injuries or illnesses that affect how you move. Rehabilitation physicians have completed training in the medical specialty physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R).

Rehabilitation physicians treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. Their goal is to decrease pain and enhance performance without surgery. Rehabilitation physicians take the time needed to accurately pinpoint the source of an ailment. They then design a treatment plan that can be carried out by the patients themselves or with the help of the rehabilitation physician’s medical team. This medical team might include other physicians and health professionals, such as neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists.

By providing an appropriate treatment plan, rehabilitation physicians help patients stay as active as possible at any age. Their broad medical expertise allows them to treat disabling conditions throughout a person’s lifetime.

Rehabilitation Physicians May Treat:

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Back Pain
Brain Injuries
Cardiac Rehabilitation
Geriatric Rehabilitation
Neck Pain
Nerve Pain
Ulnar Neuropathy (Wrist Pain in Bicyclists)
Pediatric Rehabilitation
Post-Polio Syndrome
Spinal Cord Injuries
Sports-Related Injuries
Women’s Conditions
Female Athlete Triad
Pelvic Pain
Pregnancy and Back Pain
Work-Related Injuries

For more information on the medical specialty of physiatry, visit the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chronic Pain Support Group

Marianjoy’s Chronic Pain Support Group meets the first Thursday of every month from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. at the Oakbrook Terrace facility. This group is for individuals living with chronic pain who are looking for support and who are willing to provide support to others.

It is attended by individuals diagnosed with a variety of pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and joint dysfunction, back pain, and chronic headaches. You do not need to be a Marianjoy patient to participate in this group.

For more information, call Dr. Angelique Strand at (630) 909-6524.

Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center
17W682 Butterfield Road
Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois
(630) 909-6500

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What is Chronic Pain?

Patients who enter Marianjoy’s pain programs often complain of:

Significant functional limitations
Inability to fulfill work or social obligations
Disrupted sleep-wake cycles
Strained interpersonal relationships
Self-esteem problems
Distorted body image

The diagnoses that bring a patient to a chronic pain management program vary, but some of the most common are:

Back pain
Neck pain
Rib dysfunction
Adhesive capsulitis
Patellar tendonitis
Sacroiliac dysfunction
Biomechanical spine pain
Myofascial pain
Neuropathic (nerve) pain
Chronic headaches

Monday, January 5, 2009

What Does it Mean to Be a CARF-Accredited Pain Program?

The Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center is the only CARF-accredited pain program in the state of Illinois.

What is CARF?
Founded in 1966, CARF is a private, not-for-profit organization that promotes quality rehabilitation services. It does this by establishing standards of quality for organizations to use as guidelines in developing and offering their programs or services to consumers. CARF uses the standards to determine how well an organization is serving its consumers and how it can improve.

The CARF standards are developed with input from consumers, rehabilitation professionals, state and national organizations, and funders. Every year the standards are reviewed and new ones are developed to keep pace with changing conditions and current consumer needs.

What does it mean to be accredited?
After an organization applies for accreditation of its services or programs, CARF sends professionals in the field to conduct an on-site survey to determine the degree to which the organization meets the standards. CARF surveyors also consult with staff members and offer suggestions for improving the quality of services.

CARF-accredited programs and services have demonstrated that they substantially meet internationally recognized standards. CARF accreditation means that you can be confident that an organization has made a commitment to continually enhance the quality of its services and programs, and its focus is on consumer satisfaction.

For more information including access to a list of CARF-accredited providers, visit