Our spinal cord and nervous systems are amazingly complex communicators of the various sensations we need to cope in a world with lots of potentially hazardous stimuli. Our nervous system is basically our warning system of potential traumatic injury, potential damage from heat sources, when to wear more clothing for protection from frigid temperatures, and myriad other sensations.
Unfortunately, chronic pain is one of those sensations. Whether it’s a result of conditions such as degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, or some other condition, chronic pain is no fun. Chronic pain is pain that persists or progresses over a long period of time. In contrast to acute pain that arises suddenly in response to a specific injury and is usually treatable, chronic pain persists over time and is often resistant to medical treatments.
Dr. Trujillo and our team at Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic help our patients cope with chronic pain every day. Two of the tools we use to help patients cope with their pain are spinal cord stimulation and intrathecal pain pumps. In this month’s two blogs, let’s get into each of these treatments. In this first blog, spinal cord stimulation.
What is spinal cord stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation therapy uses electrical stimulation to treat chronic pain. Mild electrical pulses are directed to disrupt the pain messages that are sent to the brain. This reduces the sensation of pain.
What is involved with spinal cord stimulation?
Although the title sounds kind of scary, Dr. Trujillo has extensive experience with this therapy. To begin the process, thin insulated wires equipped with electrical contacts are inserted into the space surrounding the spinal cord, called the epidural space. Dr. Trujillo places these through a catheter inserted into the back. The wires are then connected to a generator outside the body.
Now the patient is awakened and gives feedback on where additional current is needed for pain control. Dr. Trujillo makes adjustments to the wires and the patient is again sedated. The catheter tube is removed, but the leads are left in the epidural space. They remain attached to the exterior generator.
Over the course of several days, the patient tries spinal cord stimulation to see how it affects his or her chronic pain. The patient controls when and how much pain stimulation is needed for various situations.
If the patient feels spinal cord stimulation is making a definite impact on their pain, a new generator is implanted permanently between the skin and the muscle in the upper buttock or chest. The electrical leads are tunneled under the skin to the generator and connected. Dr. Trujillo then programs a small hand-held controller that sends signals to the generator. This allows the patient to control the electrical stimulation needed.
In June’s second blog, we’ll discuss the intrathecal pain pump.
Are you dealing with chronic pain? Call the experts at Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic, (855) 768-4968, we can help.