“The human body is a marvel of engineering,” says Dr. Michael Cassaro. As a physician, he knows a thing or two about bodies, of course, but he also knows quite a bit about engineering.
He earned a degree in it at the University of Louisville and was working outdoors as a civil engineer during the harsh winter of 1977 when he realized he would prefer a career offering a bit more warmth – and not just the comfort of an office but the warmth of human interaction.
“I like helping people,” Cassaro says. “I like solving their problems on a daily basis, and I realized that as an engineer, I wasn’t helping people as much as I wanted to, at least not individually.”
After earning a high score on the medical school entrance exam, he began taking required and elective courses on a range of medical specialties. Serendipity then determined the course of his career. In an elective class in anesthesiology, he discovered the subspecialty of chronic pain management, which combined his love of helping others with the chance to put his engineering mind to work on analyzing, defining and solving problems.
During his residency at the Ochsner Medical Center just outside New Orleans, a facility consistently rated one of the best by U.S. News & World Report, he began to notice that patients rarely had just one medical problem or complaint, which led him to start looking at the body as a whole. He says he began to unlock “hidden sources of pain amplification in the body’s immune system, metabolism and hormone system.”
Cassaro now offers patients a range of whole body evaluation and treatment services at his Painless Living office, a Jeffersonville facility specializing in treatment of headaches, backaches and other types of chronic pain.
New patients receive a thorough 45-minute evaluation, including a review of any previous test results or X-rays. If Cassaro determines that the treatment for a pain problem falls within the scope of his practice, the patient then receives a detailed plan for further evaluation and treatment.
Sometimes the source of chronic pain is as simple as “wearing high heels, the type of food the patient eats or the medicines he or she is taking,” Cassaro says. “You’d be amazed at how many prescription drugs cause headaches as a side effect.”
He also stresses the importance of basic body maintenance, including eating right (no additives), sleeping right (plan a consistent bedtime) and getting regular exercise (which boosts metabolism and “in turn directly affects the body’s ability to heal,” he says).
If lifestyle changes alone won’t help a patient live pain-free, Cassaro may suggest such treatments as the use of an inversion table or a traction device. Another option is a nerve destruction procedure, which can be especially helpful in relieving severe back and neck pain. It’s a minimally invasive procedure “done with a needle,” he says, “so there’s just a little puncture wound.”
He also offers neurostimulation. Sometimes called spinal cord stimulation (SCS), the procedure involves implanting a small device that sends electronic pulses through thin wires, or leads, into a nerve that’s causing pain. The neurostimulator creates a pulse to disrupt the pain signal before it reaches the brain. The patient uses a wireless external remote to control the stimulation level.
Cassaro has performed hundreds of neurostimulator implants during the past 25 years, and other physicians consult him for his expertise in using the procedure for chronic pain treatment. Many services are provided in his office; others are provided in an outpatient surgical center.
Whatever diagnosis a patient receives, there is one treatment plan that Cassaro does not provide: “I won’t prescribe medicine for longterm pain,” he says. “The current opioid epidemic is a direct result of pain medication being over-prescribed, and heroin users often are people who can no longer get prescription medicine.” VT
For Cassaro’s advice on a range of health issues, check out his weekly syndicated radio program, “The Painless Living Show.” The program’s website (painlesslivingshow.com) offers broadcast info, an archive of shows and articles on an array of chronic pain topics, from morning headaches to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Painless Living is located at 200 Missouri Ave. in Jeffersonville. For more information, visit painlessliving.net or call 812.207.2092.
Story by Thomas Pack