There’s a sobering reality about the collective well-being of the population of the United States — more than 20% of people are in pain, and more than 7% report high-impact pain that’s placing severe limits on their lives.
Managing pain is tricky under the best of circumstances, and there’s no magic bullet when it comes to pain relief. That doesn’t mean that there aren't solutions that can meet your pain-management goals.
This month, Dr. Ali H. Mesiwala and our team take a closer look at the role that spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is playing in helping people to find much-needed relief from ongoing and hard-to-treat pain.
If you want to learn more about why more than 50,000 spinal cord stimulators are implanted each year in the US, read on.
When it comes to chronic pain, one of the biggest problems is that it can often take on a life of its own. When pain first starts, it’s usually in response to an identifiable problem, such as damaged tissues and nerves.
Many people with chronic pain have had more than enough time for the damage to heal, yet the nerves continue to fire off pain messaging. This type of pain is no longer protecting the body — in fact, it’s now doing more harm than good.
As a result, the pain has become a primary condition and one that’s difficult to treat because there’s no underlying problem we can address. However in certain instances, patients are sometimes not ideal candidates for traditional spinal surgery.
This is where neuromodulation can come in. This is a technique in which we implant a device that delivers mild electrical impulses into the area where the nerves are hyperactive. In the case of SCS, it’s somewhere along your spine. These impulses disrupt the pain messaging between your nerves and your brain.
Aside from its proven efficacy in treating refractory and hard-to-treat pain syndromes, SCS has other advantages that people appreciate.
First, SCS can reduce your reliance on pain medications. These medicines come with considerable risks, especially the addiction risk that comes with opioid-based medications. As well, oral medications can also lead to gastrointestinal issues.
Another reason why our patients opt for SCS is that they want to avoid aggressive surgical solutions. In fact, SCS is often the answer for failed back surgery syndrome, a problem in which previous surgery didn’t work to relieve the pain or there’s more pain afterward.
With SCS, there’s very little risk. First, we conduct a trial to make sure that the neuromodulation works to bring you relief before we implant the spinal cord stimulator. Then, after we implant the device, you control the electrical impulses, turning them on and increasing them as needed.
Until now, we‘ve been discussing the many benefits of spinal cord stimulation. It’s worth noting that we offer other forms of neuromodulation that can help with many different chronic pain conditions, including:
We target the dorsal root ganglia in your spine to relieve pain in difficult-to-treat areas in your lower body, such as your feet, knees, and hips.
With PNS, we stimulate specific nerves away from your spinal cord — your peripheral nerves.
We stimulate the multifidus muscle in your lower back to strengthen and stabilize the tissues to relieve chronic lower back pain.
To help you choose the best neuromodulation approach for your chronic pain, it’s important to work with a trained and experienced spine surgeon.
Dr. Mesiwala is a leading spine surgeon who regularly employs these techniques and treatment modalities to relieve our patients’ symptoms. He is faculty for spinal cord stimulation systems and trains other surgeons around the country in this procedure. He has performed several thousand neuromodulation procedures in the outpatient setting, with patients going home the same day after an, approximately, 30-minute procedure.
If you’re frustrated in your efforts to find meaningful and safe pain management solutions, we invite you to contact one of our offices — in Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, Rancho Cucamonga, or San Bernardino, California — to learn more about neuromodulation.