For decades, Dr. John J. Sassano of Florida Pain Relief Centers has truly listened to patients who describe their pain, with unwavering commitment to thoroughly addressing their individual concerns and conditions. Since he has lived with chronic pain in his own life, he knows firsthand the feelings of emotional and physical suffering, and how this creates a 'prison of pain' for the sufferer.
Dr. Sassano also understands that one of the most difficult parts of living with chronic pain is that patients are often put in the position where they must prove that they have pain before they get any help. They are "guilty until proven innocent."
|As a pain management physician, Dr. Sassano believes that “Once a patient has been labeled with ‘chronic pain,’ there is a tendency to stop looking for the cause.
In the recent past, chronic pain was thought to be due to the patient’s ‘inability to deal with it.'
We now know that chronic pain is a disease within the central nervous system as well as an underlying problem that may be too microscopic to be detected by routine X-rays and scans. You must first believe that the patient feels pain. Then, you need to establish goals for the patient and yourself."
In an article* published in Gainesville Today, Dr. Sassano describes how living with chronic pain has parallels with being a Prisoner of War.
Prisoners of war are held captive and deprived of basic needs like freedom, sleep, social contact, the ability to work, intimacy and hope. Add consistent discomfort, confusion, anxiety and depression, and you also describe the life of a chronic pain patient.
According to the article, "chronic pain affects nearly every aspect of a person's life; physical conditions, emotions, relationships, work, finances, sexuality, self-image and self-esteem. Over time, the damage can be devastating. For many, describing their pain (or captor) is difficult because they don't know its name or speak its language."
New, innovative insights into the nature of pain and advances in treating chronic pain allow pain specialists like Dr. Sassano to help free patients from their personal prison.
To this end, Dr. Sassano has three goals:
- First, get the correct diagnosis.
- Second, reduce the patient’s suffering.
- Third, improve the patient’s ability to function.
Dr. Sassano systematically examines each potential ‘pain generator,’ which includes bone, joints, discs, nerves and soft tissue (usually muscle). He says, "If a patient’s pain is caused by disc disease, facet joint arthritis and severe muscle spasm, for instance, and you only remove the diseased disc, the patient may still hurt in spite of an excellent operation because the patient still has two remaining pain generators: facet joints and muscle spasm. I try to find and treat all of the pain generators when possible.”
Typically, Dr. Sassano uses a multidisciplinary approach that begins with finding the organic cause of the pain by using X-rays, MRIs, nerve conduction and other tests. (Some patients’ medical tests are so outdated that many times they find that physical changes occurring over time are causing the new or chronic pain.)
“I just try to find the pain source or the damaged nerves,” Dr. Sassano said. “Much like a computer technician searching for the broken circuit or damaged file, and stop the pain long enough for the nervous system to be reprogrammed.”
We already know that normal pain is like the body’s alarm system that sends your brain signals and emotions such as, “Ouch, that pan is hot!” But chronic pain is different, and research has helped us to recognize chronic pain for what it is: a disease within the central nervous system that needs to be specifically diagnosed and holistically treated.
We now know that many factors contribute to how people feel pain, such as gender, genes and brain chemicals. Additionally, high-tech imaging technologies and specialized surgical techniques can provide much-needed information and relief. Patches and other pain-delivery systems now utilize medications more efficiently, using less medication and providing more relief.
Neurological research has also proven that pain is not just in your head – it’s in your nerves. Even when the source of your pain is removed, your nerves can malfunction, falsely remembering the original pain and sending out the pain signal to your brain.
After a car accident, Ocala resident Bobbie M. had lived with chronic pain, including fibromyalgia, every day for 10 years.
“I tried physical therapy, but they couldn’t help me because they couldn’t even touch my skin without causing pain,” she said. “One doctor gave me a Cortisone shot in my back, and I thought I was going to die.”
Bobbie, a former criminal justice teacher, was soon disabled and confined to a wheelchair. Then one day she said, “My husband read about Dr. Sassano in Gainesville Today and he begged me to give it one more try, saying, ‘This doctor has been through pain, he understands.’ After having been to so many doctors who simply didn’t listen or talk to me, I was hesitant. I quickly found that Dr. Sassano was different. He actually listened, understood and treated me like a real person. He worked to relieve the cause of the pain and gave me relief for the first time. Unlike the other doctor, he used anesthetic before any injections to relax my muscles.
“The day I was asked to get up and speak in church – and I could – I felt like a real person again for the first time in a long time. I still use my wheelchair for longer trips, like to the mall, but some days I don’t need it.”
Former cosmetologist Margaret F. of Alachua was in a near-fatal car accident that changed her body and her life. “I was in a coma for six months with minimal brain activity and totally smashed up from the waist down,” she said. “The doctors told my family to find a nursing home because I probably would never have a normal life. Amazingly, I survived.”
Paralyzed from the waist down, Margaret was in constant pain. “Most people would be miserable on even what I call a ‘good pain day.’” She said.
When her primary care doctor recommended Dr. Sassano, her life took a different direction. “He is such a great doctor because he knows what it’s all about,” she said. “He listened, focused and helped tremendously in relieving pain.”
Grace J., 81, and her son David, 48, suffer from the same genetic spinal problems that cause chronic back pain, and had been to multiple doctors for help before finding Dr. Sassano. David describes him as “brilliant. He is both mine and my mom’s hero.”
“My mom was disabled for 25 years,” David said. “Dr. Sassano has done more for her in two months than anyone has in all that time. After MRIs and nerve testing, Dr. Sassano designed a combination of nerve blockers and medications so she is now living a pain-free life for the first time. She can now go back to church and has lunch with her friends several times a week. We just wish we had found Dr. Sassano years ago.”
While Grace’s results are “dramatic,” David’s results are quite remarkable as well. As owner of a surgery-consulting company in Buenos Aires, Argentine, and trying to care for his mother, David has had to travel long distances and help move patients, which has worsened his condition over time. When he was faced with surgery, David insisted that Sassano coordinate his pain management.
“Dr. Sassano doesn’t just put a 'Band-Aid' on the pain,” he said. “He designs a long-term recovery package so you can get your life back – and get back into your life.”
About Dr. Sassano
Dr. John J. Sassano is a board-certified, fellowship trained specialist in Interventional Pain Management. After graduating from the University Of Connecticut School Of Medicine in 1976, he attended a General Surgery Residency at the University of Vermont and completed both a Residency in Anesthesiology and a Fellowship in Critical Care Medicine at the University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center. These were followed by Pain Fellowships at the University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center and at Texas Tech University.
Dr. Sassano practices at Florida Pain Relief Centers’ South Sarasota location. His practice of compassionate care and dedication to understanding the unique needs of his patients ensure the best treatment outcomes.
Are You Living with Chronic Pain?
At Florida Pain Relief Centers, relieving your pain and ensuring your comfort are our top priorities. Life can be enjoyable, not just bearable. Let us relieve your pain and restore your quality of life.
If you are tired of living with chronic pain and want more information about our minimally invasive, proven procedures and treatments for minimizing or eliminating your suffering, call us today at 941-363-9400 or click the button below to set up a consultation.
* Excerpts from "Prisoner of Chronic Pain", Gainesville Today magazine