For Chronic Pain, a Non-Opioid Alternative
 
For chronic pain, neurostimulation is a potential alternative to long-term opioid use.

For Chronic Pain, a Non-Opioid Alternative

More than 30 percent of Americans are living with chronic and acute pain, and that percentage increases with age, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Among many physicians, opioids have commonly been the choice for chronic pain management. However, because of the side effects and risks associated, many people with chronic pain are looking for opioid alternatives.

If this sounds like you, neurostimulation treatment could help better manage your pain, reduce the need for opioids and improve your overall quality of life. Be sure to consult with a pain management specialist in your area.

play video play video Chronic Pain A Non-Opioid Alternative

Chronic Pain, Managed with Opioids

Finding relief from chronic pain is essential to enjoying life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that doctors prescribe opioids to about one out of five people who have pain not related to cancer. Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain to block pain signals, according to Med Device Online.

These receptors also control important functions in your body, so using opioids can cause a range of side effects, including:

  • Respiratory instability.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Constipation.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Physical dependence.
  • Dangerous interactions with other drugs.

You a pain management specialist can manage many of these side effects with other prescription medications. But as you balance pain relief with side-effect management, you may find yourself ordering your day around your medication schedule. It doesn't have to be that way.

While prescription opioid medication can play an important role in helping manage acute (short-term) or cancer pain, these drugs were never intended to routinely treat chronic (long-term) pain. Even today, there is a lack of evidence for such extended use.

play video play video DRG: Life-Changing Technology for Chronic Pain

Neurostimulation for Chronic Pain

Neurostimulation therapy is a drug-free technology to manage your pain.

The treatment works by implanting a small device, similar to a pacemaker, into your body. The device delivers electrical pulses to nerves along your spinal column to block (or mask) pain signals before they reach brain so that you don't perceive the pain.

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) therapy are two types of neurostimulation. SCS usually targets pain in your back, arms or legs. DRG therapy stimulates the dorsal root ganglion, a structure along the spinal column made up of bundles of sensory nerves. DRG therapy can target pain in specific locations in the body, particularly the groin, feet, knees or hips.

"One of the goals in our practice is to help veterans come off their pain medications," said Pankaj Mehta, MD, an interventional pain physician and director of implantable therapies at Pain Specialists of Austin, said in an interview with Abbott. "We know that every patient is different and every pain is different. With Burst DR therapy, I was able to customize therapy to each patient individually."

Reduce Medication Dependence

When you take opioids, your body builds up a tolerance, meaning that you may need to take a higher dose to feel the same relief over time. Higher doses can lead to more side effects. One goal of neurostimulation is to stop the dose escalation and reduce dependence on opioids for chronic pain management.

One retrospective study published in Pain Medicine found that people who were prescribed opioids and received spinal cord stimulation were able to reduce or stabilize their opioid usage. Many people had seen their opioid dosages increase before getting the implant.

Dr. Mehta also found that neurostimulation helped his patients take fewer medications overall.

"One problem, other than opioids, is something called polypharmacy, which means these patients are on different medicines for different issues," Dr. Mehta said. "With BurstDR therapy, I was able to help patients get off the medications they were on. Apart from helping curb the opioid escalation, I am now able to curb polypharmacy."

If you're struggling with pain and want to reduce or avoid taking opioids, talk to a pain management specialist about neurostimulation. You might be able to take a neurostimulation device on a trial run: Your pain management specialist can apply one of these devices externally, so you can determine whether it works for you before committing.

Chronic pain and medication management can pull you away from the things you love. Neurostimulation may be a way for you to regain your sense of normalcy and return to the activities you enjoy with the same pain reduction and fewer side effects.

 

The placement of a neurostimulation system requires surgery, which exposes patients to certain risks. Complications such as infection, swelling, bruising and possibly the loss of strength or use in an affected limb or muscle group (e.g. paralysis) are possible. Additional risks such as undesirable changes in stimulation may occur over time. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the possible risks associated with neurostimulation.

BurstDR therapy important safety information can be found here.

DRG important safety information can be found here.