Out with opioids

A new pain management clinic aims to help patients without opioid medications 


Dr. Linda Bluestein on Monday opened a pain management clinic that offers alternatives to opioid medications.

Dr. Linda Bluestein had been an anesthesiologist with Aspirus for 14 years before a chronic condition weakened her to the point where she couldn’t even take herself to medical appointments, let alone work.

Today, Bluestein teaches at the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Wausau campus, is involved with numerous groups associated with her affliction Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and advocates for education about the condition that’s often misdiagnosed.

And starting Monday, Bluestein launched Wisconsin Integrative Pain Specialists to help others like her with chronic pain. Opened in a building that once housed Allied Health Chiropractic, Bluestein’s clinic has one key, important feature: pain management done without opioid pain medications.

While the general public is starting to become aware of the dangers of long-time opioid use, which has reached full-blown crisis in Marathon County and across the U.S., anesthesiologists have long known they’re not safe for long-term use, Bluestein says.

Part of the problem, Bluestein says, is time. Primary care doctors on average have only seven minutes to see a patient. Bluestein’s office visits take between one and two hours. That allows time to explore a person’s overall health, the best recommendation, and take a holistic approach.

That can mean a variety of things, Bluestein says: special garments that increase blood flow, exercise such as yoga or tai chi, and changing diet to eliminate foods that cause inflammation. Bluestein is a strong proponent of warm water therapy, which can be therapeutic in pain management.

If that sounds idealistic—can these things really do what opioid pain medications do?—Bluestein stresses that they’re all techniques she has used to manage her own pain. And at public forums for North Central Health Care’s warm water therapy pool, numerous speakers attested to the therapy pool reducing their need for opioid pain medication.

Bluestein’s battle with EDS—which she says is more common than rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease, and is often misdiagnosed—gives her insight into what people with chronic pain go through, and proves her methods. Bluestein now regularly attends Zumba exercise classes, which as a former ballet teacher, helps make her feel like she’s gotten her life back. “It’s fun to [dance and] not think about anything else,” she says.

Call 715-600-1722 or see WisconsinIntegrativePainSpecialists.org.