Dr. Genaro Gutierrez shares how he treats chronic pain.
Sponsored by Pain Specialists of America
After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas, Dr. Genaro Gutierrez completed medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. His work in anesthesiology at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., was recognized for excellence. He completed a fellowship at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center among leaders in interventional pain management.
He authors textbook chapters and is published in peer-reviewed journals. His medical interests include whiplash, complex regional pain syndrome and neuromodulation. Gutierrez, a native Austinite, enjoys cycling and jogging, and makes a strong attempt to play golf. He’s fluent in Spanish.
“To see a patient that hasn’t walked in several months or a year and then having her back up and walking without any crutches,” he says, “is incredibly rewarding.”
Dr. Genaro Gutierrez, what pain syndromes do you typically treat in women?
Women are prone to developing chronic pain after surgery, trauma or just organically. I see women with chronic headaches, complex regional pain syndrome, pelvic pain from endometriosis and from physical activity. One exciting emerging therapy for sports injuries is regenerative medicine, enhancing the body’s own natural ability to heal itself.
Can you tell us what it means to have chronic pain?
Chronic pain is defined as pain that has been persistent for more than three months, or beyond the expected recovery or healing time for an injury. Unfortunately, sometimes chronic pain is permanent pain. My job is to introduce both classic and novel methods to reduce a person’s daily suffering and make their pain much more manageable on a daily basis.
What are some of the most common conditions you treat?
I see a large variety of chronic-pain syndromes, starting with the very basic degenerative-arthritis pain cases of the neck, low back, knees and hips. I also see a substantial amount of neuropathy in my practice that can stem from nerve damage from chronic diabetes, chemotherapy, surgeries or trauma. We also see a lot of chronic headaches in our practice. There is a lot we can do about these issues without resorting to oral medications to calm the pain.
Can you name some of these treatments?
For spine pain due to degenerative arthritis, there is a really neat treatment that targets the specific small nerves that communicate pain from the small joints of the spine (facet joints) with a specialized needle that creates discreet thermal lesions to these nerves and renders them unable to communicate pain. This typically lasts for 12 months at a time, but in some cases, it can last longer. This same concept and technology can also be applied to other joints in the body.
What if the patient is terrified of needles?
Not to worry. Our pain center can provide safe and effective IV sedation under the care of a licensed anesthesiology provider to make sure your procedure and experience are as smooth and painless as possible.
What is spinal-cord stimulation?
Spinal-cord stimulation has been getting a lot of press these days, and rightfully so. This technology has actually been available for decades but in the last couple years, there have been tremendous advances in both convenience of the therapy and improved efficacy. Spinal-cord stimulation is a minimally invasive therapy targeting specific bundles of nerves within the spinal cord in order to calm pain in the spine, extremities and even pain in the chest and abdomen. It is most commonly used for the unlucky but rare situation in which a person has undergone spine surgery for degenerative or traumatic conditions, but for whom, unfortunately, the pain never went away. I also perform this on many people that are simply not candidates for spine surgery or for any additional spine surgery. I work very closely with many of the spine specialists in Austin and Round Rock, Texas, to identify patients that would benefit from this modality. This treatment also works very well for peripheral neuropathy and nerve-pain syndromes. It is also gaining a lot of traction in chronic pelvic-pain syndromes.
Is this done in a hospital?
We do all of our spinal-cord stimulation cases as outpatient surgery.
What are your favorite cases to treat?
My favorites also happen to be the most challenging. These include complex regional pain syndrome and cancer-pain syndromes. Both are very rewarding to treat but challenging because of recurrence. My goal is always to do my best to provide people with more good days than bad days as they cope with their condition.
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