Neuromodulation As An Alternative in Chronic Pain Therapy

September 28, 2010

Neuromodulation therapy enables many patients to increase their activity levels and improve overall quality of life.

Among the most effective alternatives to prescription drug therapy for chronic pain is spinal cord stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation, according to the North American Neuromodulation Society (SCS) and American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (PNS).

Chronic pain affects more than 50 million Americans each year.

Both treatments have been proven to be among two of the most effective tools in treating chronic pain, according to the societies. They also allow patients to avoid side effects such as excessive sedation or clouding of thoughts which are associated with traditional pain medications.

“Patients do not feel like they are living in a 'drug fog,’” said Dr. Joshua Prager, a California-based pain specialist and member of NANS and ASIPP, in a press release. “One can look at these devices as pacemakers for the nervous system, which help to control nerve-related pain. Patients should weigh all their options, especially when pain persists, to maximize their chances of achieving pain relief.”

Neuromodulation therapy enables many patients to increase their activity levels and improve overall quality of life. Similar in function and appearance to cardiac pacemakers, spinal cord and peripheral nerve stimulation deploys the use of neurostimulation devices that send micro-electrical signals directly to the spinal cord or peripheral nerves to block pain.

SCS delivers low-intensity electrical pulses that diminish or block the severity of the pain message to the brain with a tingling sensation. Patients are often able to reduce or eliminate their use of pain medications, which can potentially have multiple negative side effects including dependency. Implanting the device usually requires only a minor surgical procedure. Once activated, the system can be programmed to best control individual levels of pain.

PNS is a similar neuromodulation technique. Electrical stimulation is applied instead to the peripheral nerves. It can also help alleviate chronic pain that has not responded to less invasive procedures. PNS is extremely useful for treating pain in areas that are not as accessible to spinal cord or spinal-nerve root stimulation. PNS has been used to treat a variety of conditions including chronic headaches, peripheral nerve injuries, facial pain, post-hernia surgery pain, low back pain, and a variety of other conditions.

Sacral Nerve Stimulation has been used for the treatment of bladder dysfunction (neurogenic bladder), pelvic pain, interstitial cystitis, and other conditions.

The North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS) seeks to be the premier organization representing neuromodulation. NANS promotes multidisciplinary collaboration among clinicians, scientists, engineers, and others to advance neuromodulation through education, research, innovation, and advocacy.

The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians’ mission is to promote the development and practice of safe, high quality, cost-effective Interventional Pain Management techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of pain and related disorders, and to ensure patient access to these interventions. Founded in 1998 by Chairman of the Board and CEO Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD, ASIPP is a rapidly growing not-for-profit organization that supports the access to interventional techniques and the needs of physicians who practice accountable Interventional Pain Management across the country.


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