by Helen Chade Mahshi
Call Dr. Betts, Pain MD
Interventional pain specialists are a sub-specialty of anesthesiologists that you probably haven’t heard about unless you were in pain. If you did go see one, your relief of pain was probably so dramatic, you told everyone about it. This was the case for Barbara Pontius, a 71-year-old local resident.
“I went to see Dr. Betts (board certified, anesthesiologist interventional pain specialist in San Clemente) on the recommendation of my internist,” shared Pontius. “I was having pain radiating from my hip down my leg into my foot. I couldn’t get out of bed one morning, the pain was so bad.” Pontius was suffering from vertebral compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.
On August 23rd, Dr. Betts performed kyphoplasty on Pontius, which is a minimally invasive treatment for vertebral compression fractures. A needle, guided by x-ray, is placed through the skin into the fractured vertebra. Then, a small balloon is inserted through the needle into the vertebral body. The balloon is inflated inside the vertebra and helps restore the collapsed vertebra towards its original height. The balloon is then deflated and a cement material is inserted into the vertebra that sets the fracture and relieves the pain. Kyphoplasty can be performed with moderate sedation, and doesn’t require general sedation.
“Dr. Betts has changed my life!” Pontius exclaimed. She is now back to her active lifestyle, and following-up with physical therapy.
Attracted to the warm weather and great surfing conditions, Dr. Betts moved his practice to San Clemente’s village about five years ago. He describes his profession as being very “rewarding” because of the relief from pain he is able to offer his patients. The son of immigrants from Chile, Dr. Betts worked his way through medical school, graduating with honors from UC San Francisco. He is personable and friendly, conversing easily in English or Spanish with his patients. The majority of his patients will come to him for back pain. He provides advanced interventional pain therapy, including epidural and nerve root injection of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, radiofrequency lesioning and vertebroplasty and balloon kyphoplasty for compression fractures due to osteoporosis.
In case these terms are unintelligible to you; just know this; if you have pain, Dr. Betts just might be the person to diagnose it and treat it effectively. This writer can attest to the dramatic relief offered by anesthesiologists specializing in pain therapy. Years ago, when I was nine months pregnant, I developed a horrible case of bronchitis. My cough was so severe; I tore the cartilage around my ribs. Breathing was painful. I could not imagine going into labor in this condition. The closest pain specialist at that time was in Laguna Hills. After a few strategically delivered trigger point injections containing cortisone, my pain was gone. The medication was localized, just where the pain was, so the baby was not affected.
Several years earlier, I had been introduced to the services offered by a pain specialist. After lifting some boxes, I had developed muscle spasms deep in my back that wouldn’t go away with over-the-counter muscle relaxants or massage. I visited a pain specialist in the UCI clinic in Orange. The doctor found the most painful spots on my back and administered trigger point cortisone injections. The relief I felt after just one visit was palpable. In both instances, I had to travel outside of San Clemente to find a specialist who could alleviate my pain. It is reassuring that our village has evolved in its medical repertoire to include an interventional pain specialist.
Dr. Betts also treats people with joint pain, or nerve pain damaged by conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and fibromyalgia. He can even help with the pain caused by shingles. Last year, Dr. Betts was the recipient of the Orange County physician of Excellence award in pain management. He is a national speaker and has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals on interventional pain management.