New Treatment Option for Long-Term Chronic Back, Leg Pain

Patients with chronic back and leg pain may be able to forgo the use of prescription painkillers thanks to a new treatment that has been shown to provide long-lasting analgesia.

Patients with chronic back and leg pain may be able to forgo the use of prescription painkillers thanks to a new treatment that has been shown to provide long-lasting analgesia.

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) treats chronic pain by sending electric pulses to the spinal cord through a device that is implanted under the skin. Low frequency forms of the therapy have long been used in patients with chronic pain; however, lead author Leonardo Kapural, MD, and colleagues speculated that high frequency SCS may provide even better outcomes. The conclusive findings were documented in Anesthesiology.

“Chronic back and leg pain have long been considered difficult to treat and current relief options such as opioids have limited effectiveness and commonly known side effects,” Kapural, a professor of anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and clinical director at Carolinas Pain Institute at Brookstown, said in a news release.

While the traditional low frequency SCS therapy uses 40 to 60 Hz, the new treatment, HF10 therapy, delivers 10,000 Hz. The researchers studied both frequencies in 171 patients experiencing both chronic back and leg pain. All of the participants were implanted with an SCS system and 90 of them underwent HF10 therapy while the other 81 had traditional SCS.

“This is the first long-term study to compare the safety and effectiveness of high frequency and traditional SCS therapy for back and leg pain,” Kapural said.

After three months of treatment, back pain reduction by at least 50% was observed in 84.5% of HF10 therapy subjects and 43.8% of traditional SCS subjects. Leg pain also decreased with HF10 therapy and traditional SCS in 83.1% and 55.5% of patients, respectively. The results for back and leg pain were sustained for 12 months. In addition, the authors noted that those who received HF10 therapy did not experience paresthesias, which is often a result from traditional SCS.

These results suggest that higher frequency SCS can provide long-term benefits in patients with chronic back and leg pain. Since approximately 23 — 26% of the global population suffers from lower back pain alone, the new therapy may be a worthy treatment.

“Given the prevalence of chronic pain, high frequency SCS is an exciting advance for our patients,” Kapural concluded.