Dr. Nels Dahlgren (Courtesy photo)


When he and his wife moved back to New Mexico from northern Nevada last year, Nels Dahlgren, MD, triple board certified in anesthesiology, interventional pain management and addiction medicine, saw an unmet need for his services.

Now, Dahlgren has partnered with UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center in Rio Rancho to open a new clinic to provide treatment for chronic pain and addictions, according to a press release from the medical center.

“In a nutshell, what we’re trying to do is provide truly comprehensive pain care,” he said. “It’s kind of a one-stop shop, where we can provide assistance for any kind of patient who might need it.”

Dahlgren, who is recruiting colleagues to join in the practice, expects to see outpatients, as well as hospitalized patients who are awaiting discharge.

“This is a great opportunity for the hospital and the community to have management of chronic pain and substance use disorder,” said Matthew Wilks, MD, SRMC’s chief medical officer. “This is something that has been difficult to obtain for our patients.”

“This is geared toward chronic pain issues, whatever the cause,” Wilks said. “It could be back pain, it could be cancer-related pain, it could be fibromyalgia.”

Dahlgren’s ability to treat addictions will augment existing initiatives at the UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho Behavioral Health Clinic, Wilks said.

Cancer pain is an important aspect of Dahlgren’s practice.

“Most cancer pain is actually not managed very well,” he said, adding that inadequate pain control for hospitalized patients prolongs the time until they can go home.

Cancer patients may experience discomfort following surgery, but they also often experience pain resulting from outpatient radiation treatments or chemotherapy, which can damage nerves, he said.

Because opioid pain relievers are often prescribed in such cases, people whose cancer has gone into remission may find they have developed an opioid dependency, he added. That’s where his expertise in managing addictions comes into play, including medication-assisted therapy.

In treating chronic pain, Dahlgren explores his patients’ emotional status, screening them for depression and anxiety, because these conditions play a major role in a person’s pain perception. “If you don’t mentally have a handle on the emotions, there’s no hope,” he said.

Dahlgren is certified to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which has been shown to alleviate pain by lessening a patient’s anxious vigilance for symptoms. He can also offer high-tech solutions, like nerve stimulators that are implanted next to the spinal cord to interrupt pain signals.

Dahlgren is developing referral networks with providers and hospitals throughout the state.