Pain Center nurse practitioner advocates for non-opioid alternatives

Posted 19 February 2022 at 10:48 am

By Mike Pettinella, GCASA Publicist

BATAVIA – Opioids for pain management are no longer the standard care for chronic pain, according to a board-certified family nurse practitioner at the United Memorial Medical Center Pain Management Center in Batavia.

Rebecca Russo

“We do not avoid prescription medications, but we work to avoid the management of opioids, which can decrease the perception of pain and not the cause of it,” said Rebecca Russo, responding to questions about non-opioid alternatives for the GOW Opioid Task Force.

Russo, an employee at the UMMC pain clinic since August 2020, said as a pain management nurse practitioner, she recommends minimally invasive fluoroscopic procedures for diagnosis and treatment of pain.

“We work with the patient’s primary care physician and other health care professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for these patients,” she said. “We also like to be as conservative as possible (by utilizing) non-invasive measures such as physical therapy, aqua therapy, chiropractic and massage treatments, and acupuncture.”

When it comes to opioids, Russo is well aware of the long-term effects – including addiction – that can result from prolonged use of these drugs.

“There are so many more alternatives a pain management specialist treating chronic pain that can offer the most benefit for these patients,” she said. “A multimodal approach to management is best in treating chronic pain. Opioids are not used for chronic non-malignant pain anymore as studies have shown.”

Russo said she switched to the pain management field when a colleague recommended her for a pain management and neurology position.

“I have to say I wouldn’t have had a better fit in my career. This specialty is fascinating and bountiful in ways to help patients, which I lay my foundation on,” the Michigan native said. “I have been working in pain management since I graduated with my Master of Science in Nursing four years ago.”

Prior to joining the program at UMMC, she was a registered nurse for six years, working on various units, including intermediate care, medical/surgical, observation and progressive care.

She said the local pain clinic treats a wide range of chronic and acute pain conditions, such as neck pain, cancer pain, myofascial pain, joint pain, back pain, phantom limb pain, bursitis, sciatica, post herpetic neuralgia pain, complex regional pain syndrome, peripheral neuropathy and failed back surgery syndrome.

“Some of the micro-invasive procedures that can be performed at the UMMC Pain Clinic include nerve blocks in various areas as well as radiofrequency ablations; lumbar, thoracic and cervical epidural steroid injections; trigger point injections; and spinal cord stimulator implantation,” she said.

The practice is growing coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, she reported, with more and more in-person visits being scheduled.

“At this time, we strive to keep our visits in-person, but we can accommodate telemedicine visits when a patient is unable to be seen in-person. This may be for various reasons such as being ill, inability to drive or last minute patient schedule changes,” she explained.

Russo sees the pain clinic as a viable alternative for people dealing with chronic pain, adding that the patient is considered “an important team member.”

“Interventional management is beneficial for patients when their pain continues even after attempting conservative treatments or do not have a diagnosis for their pain,” she said. “A proper diagnosis is the first step to successful treatment.

“Another benefit for these patients is that they want to avoid surgery if possible or if they’ve had surgery, but still experiencing pain, we can provide them alternatives to another surgery unless otherwise indicated.”

The UMMC Pain Center is located in Batavia at 229 Summit St., Suite 4. For more information, call 585-815-6710.