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Treatment option intercepts pain signals

Posted by: Madhavi Monteforte, MD on 4/23/2012 7:00:00 AM

If you're suffering from chronic pain and can’t get relief from traditional therapies, you may be a candidate for an advanced technique involving electrical impulses sent to the spinal cord.

It's a treatment called neuromodulation, and it is an advanced chronic pain-relieving technique. This therapy sends mild electrical impulses to the spinal cord to intercept pain signals before they reach the brain.

How it works

When you experience pain, it's the result of sensations relayed on a pathway from the nerve fibers through the spinal cord to the brain. If we can interfere with the pain signals, we can replace the sensation of pain with another—a tingling, tapping, or wave-like sensation.

Because the therapy involves the implantation of a pacemaker-like device, we first test whether it will work for you with a trial simulation. We’ll place a thin tube-like device with electrical tips into your spine. Using a remote control, you’re in charge of the stimulation, its intensity, and location.

In four or five days, you’ll come back and we’ll remove the tube. If you’ve had good pain relief and want to go ahead with permanent implantation, the next step will be to see a spine surgeon. In the hands of an experienced pain physician, the risk of the trial is generally very small.

What it’s used for

Neuromodulation is used when all other reasonable attempts to control your pain have failed. You may have tried medications, physical therapy, nonmedical therapies, injections, even surgery, to no avail.

Mostly, neuromodulation is used to relieve back pain, spinal nerve injury, pain of the arms or legs, failed back surgery, neuropathy, and complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic pain that often affects an arm or leg.

Lancaster General Health's Fibromyalgia Program can help with a combination of behavioral and physical therapies, as well as education.

Madhavi Monteforte, M.D., is a pain management specialist and anesthesiologist with Anesthesia Associates of Lancaster. She is the medical director of the Lancaster General Pain Management Center. She earned her medical degree at Temple University School of Medicine and completed her residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where she also completed a fellowship in pain management. She has expertise in the use of various injection treatments for alleviating pain.

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