In last week’s blog, we looked at different types of medications that are often used for chronic pain relief. This week, we’ll be looking at targeted procedures that may help when medications don’t work at all or don’t provide enough relief to improve your quality of life.
There are many different types of procedures that can help alleviate pain, including an intrathecal pump implant and radiofrequency ablation. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not every therapy will work for every patient, and most patients require a combination of therapies—for example, a procedure, physical therapy and medication—to help dramatically reduce or eliminate their discomfort.
What are some of the targeted procedures that may help chronic pain?
Nerves that constantly perceive that a specific area of the body is in pain can be blocked in a procedure called a nerve block. During this procedure, your physician will inject a small amount of anesthetic into the area where the nerves are, which prevents the nerves from experiencing pain. Nerve blocks can be effective in people suffering from acute pain but can also help patients suffering from long-term pain.
During radiofrequency ablation, your physician will use a needle to administer an electrical current to the site of nerve tissue that’s responsible for perceiving pain. This electrical current will, in effect, damage the nerves to the point that they can no longer send pain signals. The result is that you experience less pain. The effects can last for up to six months.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
TENS can be used to treat acute pain or chronic pain. With this therapy, an electrical current is administered to the body via electrodes and a small, battery-powered device to prevent pain signals from reaching the pain. TENS can be used for musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain and cancer pain.
Trigger Point Injections
Trigger point injections are used to administer a local anesthetic or a steroid into a trigger point that may be causing pain or inflammation. Trigger points can also cause nerve irritation, pain or tenderness in other areas of the body that are close to the trigger point that’s causing the discomfort.
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
Spinal cord stimulation involves implanting a small device under the skin and small wires near the spine that deliver electrical signals to the spine, which can interfere with neurotransmitters signaling to the brain that a particular area is experiencing pain. Patients can adjust the intensity of the stimulation via a remote control when the device is implanted permanently. This procedure can be effective for those experiencing back, limb or nerve pain who have not benefitted from other forms of treatment.
Intrathecal Pump Implant
An intrathecal pump implant allows patients to benefit from opioid pain medications and local anesthetics without the side effects. This is because a device is implanted into the body that administers the medication directly into the spinal cord. Intrathecal pump implants can work well for cancer patients, and patients who benefit from painkillers but who experience side effects that affect their quality of life.
While most severe pain can be treated with medicine, targeted therapies, physical therapy and other minimally invasive means, surgery may be necessary in some cases. For example, if you have a tumor that’s pressing on your spine, removing the tumor in a surgical procedure can help alleviate the pain.
Explore Your Pain Management Options
At Summit Spine & Joint Centers, our board-certified pain management physicians have the experience and skill to work with you and help you explore your options for comprehensive pain management. Contact us today to schedule a virtual or in-person appointment at (770) 250-4020 or via our online contact form.