UNDERSTAND THE BASICS FOR THIS REVOLUTIONARY NEW PAIN THERAPY.
SPINAL CORD STIMULATION (NEUROSTIMULATION)
Spinal cord stimulation, also referred to as neurostimulation, is when we can activate parts of the nervous system using microelectrodes connected to a small implantable battery. This uses the same principle as pacemakers that are used to control an abnormal heartbeat, except now we can use these specialised pacemakers to control abnormal nerve function that causes chronic pain. We can pace the nerves, which scrambles the pain signals of the nerves and reduces pain. Neurostimulators can be applied to any part of the nervous system, including the spinal cord or smaller nerves. When applied to the spinal cord, we call this spinal cord stimulation.
A TRIAL OF SPINAL CORD STIMULATION
A temporary 1-2 week trial of a neurostimulation device is first performed. This is where you wear the battery taped to your skin with only the electrodes inserted temporarily in your body. The electrodes are inserted into your body using specialised needles. If you have a trial of neurostimulation or spinal cord stimulation, you have a 70% chance of having a greater than 50% reduction in your pain. These are very good statistics when it is compared to pain medications alone, which only help less than 50% of patients they are trialled on.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHETHER YOU SHOULD BE CONSIDERED FOR NEUROSTIMULATION?
The key is to talk to your GP or pain specialist. Pain conditions that may improve with spinal cord stimulation include; pain following previous spinal surgery or fusion, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), pain following nerve damage. There are other indications for spinal cord stimulation but these are best discussed with your pain specialist.
RISKS OF NEUROSTIMULATION
Like most pain treatments, neurostimulation is not risk free but generally the common risks are considered mild and can include lead migration, infection, pain over the battery site and sometimes, loosing the effect of treatment over time. Neurostimulators can be removed if needed.
Also note that there have been reports of very rare and serious damage to the spinal cord and nerves.
PAIN MEDICINE IS MOVING OUT OF THE DARK AGES
Here is an infographic asking the question if pain management is stuck in the dark ages? The answer is no! With new technology available to help some people manage pain, we are leaving the dark ages and entering a new age of pain management using modern technology.