Some patients experience extreme pain, immobility, weakness or disabilities that severely diminish their quality of life. They may have already had injections, physical therapy, and surgeries that failed to relieve their chronic pain. For these patients and others for which surgery is not a viable solution, neuromodulation may be an ideal alternative.
Neuromodulation involves applying low-level electrical impulses (spinal cord stimulation) or micro-doses of medicine (drug delivery systems) to nerves along the spinal cord to block pain signals to the brain.
With spinal cord stimulation, a neurostimulator (a pacemaker-like device the size of a stopwatch) is inserted under the skin of the flank area. Electrodes extend from this device and are attached to the spine. Patients then use a remote control to turn it on, sending small electrical impulses that trick the brain into feeling a slight tingling sensation instead of pain. Because the device can be operated with different patterns and levels of stimulation, this treatment gives patients more control over their pain.
A pump connected to a thin, flexible tube is placed under the skin of the abdomen as a drug delivery system. The pump then sends prescribed amounts of pain medication through the tube directly into the fluid surrounding the spine. This gives patients pain relief that isn’t available through taking oral pills.
Though neither spinal cord stimulation, nor drug delivery systems eliminate the cause of pain, they can help patients return to a more normal life.
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