Trading pain for play
A father of six can play with his kids again after treatment at UF Health Jacksonville
By Tiffany Wilson
Rahim Mohamad endured an excruciating pain in his neck for four very long years.
It gave him migraine headaches, kept him awake at night and shot through his arm, making it nearly impossible for him to lift his small children.
“The doctors tried pain pills, but they didn’t work. Shots in the head and neck didn’t work. Massages every day didn’t work,” said Mohamad, 43, an Iraqi refugee and father of six children under age 13.
The pain was so intense, he rarely left his house. His wife, who doesn’t speak English, became the sole provider for their family.
Then Mohamad was referred to the UF Health Pain Management Center – Jacksonville, where he would finally find relief.
Sanjeev Kumar, MBBS (M.D.), an assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the College of Medicine – Jacksonville, examined Mohamad and used ultrasound imaging to locate the nerves he suspected were at the center of the pain. He used a technique called sensory stimulation to deliver electrical pulses to them. When Mohamad confirmed those were the nerves, Kumar injected a temporary local anesthetic around them. Mohamad’s pain disappeared immediately, which meant Kumar had found the correct nerves. The next step would offer long-term relief.
In a simple outpatient procedure later that same month, Kumar stopped the problem nerves from transmitting pain altogether. The process, called radiofrequency ablation, uses a high-frequency current to heat and cut the nerves.
Using imaging techniques such as ultrasound and small needles to specifically target the specific nerves, Kumar was able to eliminate the root of the pain. There was no need for sedation. The process was complete in less than 20 minutes.
Finally, Mohamad began to take back what he had given up because of his pain. On the top of his list: playtime with his kids.
“Now I can hold them and toss them in the air,” he said, gesturing to two of his daughters, ages 2 and 3. “Dr. Kumar found the spot exactly. I don’t know how to explain it enough in English to say thank you. I am very happy. Very, very happy.”
Once a patient’s nerve is treated, the pain will be gone until the nerves grow back.
“It takes a long time, so the pain will be gone for at least six months, or as much as several years,” Kumar said.
Radiofrequency ablation is just one of the pain management team’s remedies for chronic pain. The department also offers several state-of-the-art pain-management procedures. These treatments are not meant for minor aches or acute pain, which warns a person of an injury. Rather, it is for sensory pain that persists for a long period of time.
For example, Kumar said pain management brings relief to patients who have had shingles. Shingles can leave behind damaged nerves that will continue to cause lifelong pain. Radiofrequency ablation or spinal cord stimulation can eliminate that pain.
Kumar said he chose his profession to help people like Mohamad.
“I was always fascinated with chronic pain and wanted to help people. I found a lot of unnecessary surgeries and procedures were being done elsewhere that weren’t really helping patients,” he said. “Our minimally invasive approaches bring back their quality of life in a matter of minutes.”