Neurostimulation Applied to Back Pain

For those suffering from chronic back pain, going about daily activities can be difficult and painful. Depending on the causes and severity, medication and physical therapy may help, but a strategy that tends to see more effectiveness is neurostimulation.

Roughly the size of a stopwatch, a neurostimulator is a surgically implanted device that delivers mild electrical impulses to the epidural area of one’s spine through medical wires, or “leads.” These signals create a tingling sensation in the area of the back that is causing the patient’s back pain. Relief comes due to neurostimulation modulating the signals of pain before they reach the brain, much like rubbing a sore spot after bumping into a table, only no initial pain is felt.

The neurostimulator is placed underneath the skin, most commonly on the abdomen. Special medical wires then extend from the device delivering stimulation. Appearing as just a small bump, neurostimulators make no noise, and are very easy to control.

Controlling the level of stimulation is as easy as pressing a button. Through a handheld programmer, patients are able to adjust the strength and location depending on daily activities. For example, exercise and physical activity may demand stronger stimulation than times in which patients are sleeping, or simply relaxing.

Neurostimulation is an effective way to reduce chronic pain for several areas of the body, depending on the source of one’s pain, which can greatly improve patients’ daily activities and overall quality of life. Those who have seen success experience anywhere from 50% to 70% less pain depending on the provider, and a reduced need for anti-inflammatory medications. Additional bonuses of successful implants include no damage to the spinal cord, easy adjustability, and the option to have the implant turned off.

However, there are risks that come with having a neurostimulator surgically implanted, much like all pain treatments. Common side effects of this procedure include little to no stimulation due to movement of the leads, stimulation in wrong areas of the body (also due to lead movement), pain at the site of the implant, and transmission problems between the implant and the handheld programmer. Some side effects may be more serious though.

Like most surgeries, the risk of infection is present. Hematomas and fluid is also prone to leaking where the stimulator was implanted. Further complications may require additional surgery to relocate, repair, or replace specific parts of the device, and in rare cases, spinal cord injury may occur due to incorrect placement.
As mentioned before, depending on one’s severity and causes of back pain, neurostimulation may be the best option in relieving symptoms. Therapy sessions are available for those that wish to test this strategy before having surgery, so speaking with your physician about whether or not this is the right decision for you is highly suggested.

For more, visit Benn-Willcox.com!

The Benefits of Spinal Surgery

According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain, and an estimated 80% of the United States population will endure some type of back problem at some point in their lives. For those people, finding the source of this pain is crucial in order to properly combat it, as well as prevent any future occurrences.

Back pain can be caused by poor habits or health including things like posture, improper exercise, and obesity, all of which put stress on the muscles of the vertebral column. However, spinal abnormalities can be categorized as either mechanical (mentioned above), or neurological. Neurological abnormalities of the spine involve nerve root pain, compression, or tumors. The treatment, regardless of the underlying causes, typically includes physical therapy, massages, or general medication in an attempt to relieve symptoms. In extreme cases, when standard remedies have failed, spinal surgery may be required.

If a patient is experiencing chronic pain and has a treatable spinal abnormality, surgery of the spine can be extremely beneficial. Minimally invasive techniques, which require very small incisions, cause significantly less damage to the surrounding tissue than standard operating procedures. Using a tubular retractor, surgeons are able to access the spine through the skin and soft tissue with a much smaller incision required than open surgery. This retractor holds the muscles open while the surgeon performs the necessary surgery with small tools that fit through the opening of the retractor, guided by fluoroscopy; a video of the spine projected on a screen throughout the process. Once completed, the tubular retractor is removed and the muscles are able to return to their original positions with minimal damage.

The benefits of this procedure include a faster recovery time by the patient, and much less pain following surgery. However, it’s important to note that minimally invasive techniques are not preferred for traumatic situations, tumors, or infections.

Once returning to full activity, patients are to follow a strict regimen to ensure proper recovery. Avoiding lifting heavy objects and bending or twisting at the waist is highly recommended to avoid undoing that which was done during the surgery. Working closely with a physical therapist to develop an efficient rehabilitation program should also be considered, with the ultimate goal to return to one’s daily activities without being restricted by back or neck pain.

Spinal surgery, while not always necessary, can greatly help in reducing or relieving a patient’s back pain. It is, however, important to understand that with benefits comes risks. Infections, blood clots, or herniated disks are possible reactions post back surgery, the odds of which vary depending on one’s health conditions.

For those with persistent back pain, talk to your doctor about the treatments available before you consider surgery. Though it can be extremely beneficial, it is not always suggested, as circumstances may differ. Should you choose to take that next step in relieving back pain, spinal surgery may also provide increased physical fitness, better mobility, and an overall improvement in mood; just some of the many betterments possible.