Could This Popular Treatment Eliminate Your Chronic Pain?
Jim Moharter suffered from an unfortunate accident back in 2003, when his vehicle took part in a massive car crash. Severe injuries to his neck and spine plagued his existence ever since, nor could he find an adequate solution to his pain – high-dose narcotics and pain medicine became the word of order, mainly comprising dangerous opioids such as Fentanyl. In addition, the accident impaired Moharter’s locomotor abilities up to the point where he could not avoid the wheelchair any longer.
Such was Moharter’s state when Dr. Aashish Jay Kumar, a Wayne State University graduate who runs his clinic in Raleigh, NC, under Duke Health, welcomed him into his office. “When he first came here, he was on high-dose narcotics; he was in a wheelchair, he didn’t walk.” Instead of replacing the narcotic Band-Aid, Dr. Kumar decided to replace this vicious approach with a tangible and practical solution in the shape of a neuromodulation procedure. Now, Moharter is free to walk at will, without worrying about past pain or medication. “It’s very empowering, psychologically and physically.”
Moharter’s story has a happy conclusion; however, thousands of chronic pain patients out there would be much better off after a neuromodulation procedure in a painless, medication-free world. Dr. Kumar kindly agreed to share his wealth of knowledge with the Top Doctor Magazine team in order to help these patients and raise more awareness on the astounding benefits of neuromodulation. Now, it is our turn to synthesize his thoughts and present to our readers the science behind neuromodulation and the benefits stemming from this narcotic-free approach!
Explaining a Neuromodulation Procedure
A wind of change is sweeping the interventional pain field, bringing about neuromodulation’s rise in popularity. Instead of long narcotic spans, small devices work their magic in inhibiting pain signals from arriving at the brain; such news can only cheer up 8 out of 10 patients, who, as Dr. Kumar discloses, do not require controlled substances as treatment. Instead, their best and safest bet lies in a neuromodulation procedure capable of delivering electric stimulation benefits in one go!
The neuromodulation procedure entails little to no effort from the patient’s side. First, a thin lead is implanted under the skin and guided to the target nerve through X-ray and ultrasound. Then, the doctor will attach an impulse generator to your skin to communicate with the lead. Once in place, you can cause the device to send electrical stimulation to the nerve through a remote called a patient programmer.
The impulse generator delivers low-dose electrical stimulation to the target nerve to “reset” the nerve and provide pain relief. For a more precise understanding, Dr. Kumar proposed the circuit overload analogy – the exterior electrical stimulation block the pain signals traveling from the nerve to the brain. Thus, instead of focusing on the pain, the nerve will turn its attention towards the novel stimulation, consequently liberating you from pain!
Treating Multiple Types of Pain with Versatility
Neuromodulation travels far and wide when it comes to treatable pain areas. Anything from fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, and chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) falls under neuromodulation’s jurisdiction. Whether it is in the knees, wrists, shoulders, or back, neuromodulation inhibits the painful sensation left after certain surgeries, such as replacement surgery. It might sound surprising, but even patients plagued by migraines from occipital neuralgia see Dr. Kumar for neuromodulation!
Neuromodulation’s versatility lies not only in the treatable pain types; the Duke Health team understood the need to accommodate the device to the patient’s needs. Therefore, while some patients cannot wait to enjoy the permanent benefits of neuromodulation, others might want to give it a test run. Consequently, Dr. Kumar spoke to us of two device types:
- Temporary peripheral nerve stimulation devices: the patient wears the device for sixty days until removal, with pain relief effects lasting upwards of two years. At Duke Health, temporary devices come in the shape of the SPRINT device.
- Permanent peripheral nerve stimulation devices: no different from their temporary counterparts, except for two things – they are permanent and do not malfunction underwater! Duke Health recommends the Bioness StimRouter as a permanent peripheral nerve stimulation solution.
Dr. Kumar does not see an issue with patients who make their debut on temporary devices; on the contrary, the opportunity to experience the peripheral nerve stimulation benefits prompts patients to transition to permanent devices. “If it works well enough, they’re going to want to get it permanently anyway. ‘I want a permanent version of this so that I don’t have to come back every two years.'”
Raising Awareness around Neuromodulation
Over the past few years, neuromodulation has experienced a steady rise in popularity. The growing number of distributors and the patients’ willingness to avoid invasive treatments and narcotics brought traction to peripheral nerve stimulation devices. “It’s something that patients can consider to be less invasive than something going in their back. So, I think that’s why it’s gaining traction.” Because of this increase in popularity, Dr. Kumar performs around fifteen neuromodulation procedures every month.
However, for the time being, the snowball still needs time before it turns into an avalanche. Akin to other pain relief methods, such as CBD-based products, neuromodulation must wait for more data, more research papers, and more publicity before turning mainstream.
In the meantime, Dr. Kumar and his pain relief peers hope to see more patients bring positive change to their lives through neuromodulation. Insurance companies cover the procedure; therefore, numerous patients could potentially benefit from a peripheral nerve stimulation device right away!