doesn't always kill, as it once did. The latest advances in drug
therapy have added years to some patients' lives. But the down side
is that patients often suffer excruciating muscle and nerve pain.
that pain usually involves seeing a number of specialists, from
physicians and physical therapists to psychiatrists. Richard T.
Jermyn, DO, an associate professor at UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic
Medicine (SOM), developed and directs a pain center specifically
for HIV/AIDS patients, which houses all these specialists under
Comprehensive Pain Center at Voorhees uses a multi-disciplinary
approach to pain control. It is the only center of its kind in southern
New Jersey and
Jermyn says probably one of only a few in the tri-state area. "
Each person responds differently to various treatments," Jermyn
explains, "so we use whatever combination is best for each patient."
That combination can be comprised of oral medication, physical therapy,
massage therapy, biofeedback and intensive pain counseling. Experts
also teach breathing techniques used to decrease pain, which patients
can then do on their own at home.
and/or anxiety, often side effects of constant pain, and drug and
alcohol addictions, common among HIV/AIDS patients, are also addressed
at the center by psychiatrists and detox counselors. And if an assistive
device is needed, such as a walker or wheel chair, the center works
with insurance companies or other providers to get the equipment
at an affordable price.
hallmark of HIV/AIDS is nerves dying off, beginning in the feet
and slowly moving upward," explains Jermyn. "As patients lose sensation
in their feet, they often bang them and consequently injure them.
We fit them with orthotic shoes that are usually a great help."
patient is discussed at weekly team meetings, and together specialists
decide on future treatment. This eliminates disjointed care and
duplication of efforts, Jermyn explains, which often occurs when
specialists are scattered.
is also a priority at the center. The physician and his colleagues
are currently doing two studies: one on the effect of exercise on
pain, and another on the effects of depression on pain. They recently
completed a study on electroacupuncture, a technique that involves
placing low voltage electrical stimuli over acupuncture points.
They found that it helps reduce peripheral nerve pain of HIV.
says besides helping patients, the center is also working to educate
the public. "Because HIV/AIDS patients are just beginning to live
longer, most people don't realize the extent of the pain that accompanies
the disease," he says. "The World Health Organization states that
HIV pain is as significant as the pain of cancer." The education
started with SOM medical students and residents rotating through
the center. Basic researchers and representatives from several pharmaceutical
companies also spend time there. "We want to get the word out that
these patients need our help."
ultimate goal is to get the patients back into the workforce. "This
is a very young population that wants to contribute," Jermyn says.
"If we can help them do that, the center will have paid for itself