Pain, pain go away: Mercy Medical opens new facility

By Thomas Boni
Daphne Bulletin Editor
Posted 6/21/07

DAPHNE — Mercy Medical now has a place to help with pain.

The Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Institute, run under physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Gary Keogh, is open five days a week and ready for doctor referrals.

The …

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Pain, pain go away: Mercy Medical opens new facility


DAPHNE — Mercy Medical now has a place to help with pain.

The Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Institute, run under physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Gary Keogh, is open five days a week and ready for doctor referrals.

The institute’s services include examination, consultation and direct pain management of lower back pain, leg and hand injuries, to name a few, according to Keogh.

“We are not a chronic pain medication management clinic … We won’t be giving a lot of prescriptions out to patients for methadone or these types of medicines,” Keogh, a native of Ireland, said.

What Mercy will do, he said, “is assess the patient; We’ll be able to integrate their rehabilitation program with the services available in the hospital at the moment, including physical therapy; and we’ll be able to do interventional procedures — either diagnostic or therapeutic — and we’ll look at their medication.”

“The goal will be to return them to the care of the practitioner, obviously with that problem taken care of,” he said.

First, Keogh will assess the patient’s condition.

“We will start from the beginning; take a proper examination history to see what were the reasons for this degenerative process: Was it a family history problem or that the person was a heavy smoker? … And then we’ll look at where the specific problems lie,” he said.

“If we find that most of their symptoms are due to joint problems rather than disc problems, we can block the pain coming from the joint, which allows them to do physical therapy without aggravating their pain;

and if necessary we can use a form of heating or cooling to that nerve, which destroys it for up to nine months …” Keogh said.

“If they’re having numbness, tingling, weakness down the leg, or a specific nerve root, we can do nerve testing to see which nerve is affected, and again, direct a treatment at that nerve root or one or two nerve roots.”

Degenerative disks can be located with an MRI; The physiatrist can perform an electromyography, which measures muscle activity, to locate affected nerves and then set up a series epidurals and nerve blocks to alleviate the inflammation, Keogh said.

“One of the significant things we do here is a diagnostic block,” he said. “It locates where the pain is coming from and selects a treatment of that problem rather than generalized medication which just numbs the pain but doesn’t actually help the patient heal.”

If it appears that a patient requires surgery, Mercy will refer them early, Keogh said.

But most patients likely won’t need surgery, he said.

“The majority of patients who have low back pain that continues for more than six weeks, only about 5 to 7 percent of them will need surgery,” Keogh said. “The majority of patients that have this problem, we can see and we can help.”

Mercy is now equipped to treat an estimated one in eight patients who report having some kind of pain — and the sooner, the better, he said.

“Lots of people have muscle and joint and spinal problems but until the pain becomes a major issue and they can’t function they usually just deal with it,” Keogh said. “We’ll try to see these patients earlier, avoid the long-term complications of not dealing with these problems and hopefully avoid surgery in cases where we can manage the patient; help them to heal without having to undergo surgery.”

The institute aims beyond oral medicines to find — and effectively treat — the root of pain, as well as combine different therapies, Keogh said.

“Putting a concentrated lump of medicine at the area where you have inflammation is obviously a lot more effective than trying to take something orally … ” he said.

“… (People) who may have been medicated but are not any better: those are the types of patients that we’ll be able to not only look at their medicines, but look at the reasons that they are not able to function.

“We’ll be able to assist them if they need braces, we’ll be able to assist them as far as pain control on a 24-hour basis, rather than intermittent pain control. And with pain being the limiting factor in their function, we will then progress to allow them to physical therapy, to allow them to get into their normal daily routine.”

But according to Keogh, the healing process relies on more than epidurals and diagnostic blocks.

“We assist the healing process and try to make sure that there’s no barrier, but the patient has to be involved with the healing,” he said.

Abigail Young, Mercy’s program administrator for rehabilitation, said she believes the institute will fill a need at the facility.

“We are seeing patients in the clinic that are requiring pain management,” she said. “I think it’s great that we have the opportunity to provide this service to the community. I think it enhances our services.”

“Just the idea of helping people alleviate their pain and give them back quality of life is a major plus,” she added.