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.