Living with chronic pain, you understand how debilitating it can be. From making it difficult to work to keeping you from enjoying family and social events, there may be times you feel desperate for relief.
The good news: You are not alone. Chronic pain affects 1 in 5 people in the United States, according to a National Institutes of Health estimate, yet relief is elusive to many.
The better news: Treatment options, such as neurostimulation therapy, have been shown to help control pain so you can live the life you want.
Neurostimulation therapy can sound intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Read on.
Understanding Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is pain that persists longer than 12 weeks, according to the National Institutes of Health. While the original source of the pain may be known, such as a sprain or injury, sometimes the body doesn't turn off the pain messages to the brain even when the original source is gone. In a case such as this, your doctor may diagnose you with neuropathic pain.
The American Chronic Pain Association defines neuropathic pain as a "complex, chronic pain state" resulting from a malfunction of the nervous system following an injury or illness. This type of pain is described as a sharp, intense or shooting pain. Due to its complexity, neuropathic pain is difficult to treat and often doesn't respond well to standard pain medication.
Pain is an individual experience, so what works for one person may not work for another. Diagnosing the cause of your pain can be a challenge. It's important to work closely with a pain specialist to identify your condition and find the treatment or combination of treatments that works for you.
About Neurostimulation Therapy
Neurostimulation works by altering pain signals as they travel to the brain. It is a pain management therapy that delivers electrical stimulation to the spinal cord, dorsal root ganglion (a cluster of nerve cells in a dorsal root of in the spinal cord) and brain. Using an implantable device, or neurostimulator, this treatment aims to reduce the user's perception and experience of certain types of pain inside the body.
Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) therapy helps users manage difficult-to-treat chronic pain limited to the lower extremities in patients with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). It can provide profound relief to those suffering from pain following hernia, knee replacement, and amputation surgeries.
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has been used for more than 40 years. It helps control chronic pain in the arms, legs and back resulting from failed back surgery or nerve damage. With SCS, a small, implanted device uses electrical stimulation to change pain signals and pain perception in your body.
Try Before You Buy
Unsure of making a commitment to these treatments? Both of these therapies offer a unique benefit: You can try it with a temporary neurostimulation system before committing to a permanent implant of the device.
In a minimally-invasive procedure, your doctor would place stimulation leads right beneath your skin beside the nerve or nerves responsible for your neuropathic pain. You would then wear a temporary, external device under your clothing to power the electrical stimulation that disrupts the pain signals.
If you respond well to several days of the trial treatment, your doctor can walk you through permanent solutions to modulate your pain.
Other Pain Treatment Options
Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pain medications are commonly used to help manage pain. However, they're often not effective by themselves and may have lingering side effects.
Advanced nondrug treatments may improve your function and quality of life while relieving your pain. Many people can manage chronic pain with various therapies, including:
- Nerve blocks.
- Physical therapy.
- Alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, massage and meditation.
Is Neurostimulation Therapy for You?
Only you and your pain specialist can determine if neurostimulation is a good option for you. If your doctor determines you have chronic neuropathic pain and you've tried other forms of pain relief with little or no success, neurostimulation therapy may be the answer.
If you suspect you have neuropathic pain and your current pain management treatment is not working, consult a pain specialist to see if neurostimulation may help. Don't let chronic pain get the better of you — you deserve to live the best life possible.
Brief Summary: Prior to using these devices, please review the User's Manual for a complete listing of indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, potential adverse events and directions for use.
Indications for Use: Spinal column stimulation via epidural and intra-spinal lead access to the dorsal root ganglion as an aid in the management of moderate to severe chronic intractable* pain of the lower limbs in adult patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) types I and II.**
*Study subjects from the ACCURATE clinical study had failed to achieve adequate pain relief from at least two prior pharmacologic treatments from at least two different drug classes and continued their pharmacologic therapy during the clinical study.
**Please note that in 1994, a consensus group of pain medicine experts gathered by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) reviewed diagnostic criteria and agreed to rename reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and causalgia, as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) types I and II, respectively.
Contraindications: Patients who are unable to operate the system, who are poor surgical risks, or who have failed to receive effective pain relief during trial stimulation.
Warnings/Precautions: Diathermy therapy, implanted cardiac systems or other active implantable devices, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), electrosurgery devices, ultrasonic scanning equipment, therapeutic radiation, explosive or flammable gases, theft detectors and metal screening devices, lead movement, operation of machinery and equipment, pediatric use, pregnancy, and case damage.
Adverse Effects: Painful stimulation, loss of pain relief, surgical risks (e.g., paralysis). Implant Manual must be reviewed for detailed disclosure. Refer to the User's Manual for detailed indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions and potential adverse events.