PPOA Treatment Can Ease Back Pain from This Rare Disorder
Arachnoiditis has nothing to do with spiders, but its symptoms can be pretty scary. Difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat, this rare nerve inflammation can trigger excruciating lower back and leg pain. It is a progressive and debilitating disorder that can cause some people to become bedridden and unable to work.
What is Arachnoiditis?
The condition affects only about 11,000 people a year, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. It is almost always caused by a medical procedure.
It starts in the web-like arachnoid membrane that protects the spine and brain. When the membrane becomes inflamed, it can cause the nerves to fuse together. This causes them to malfunction. The resulting scar tissue can press against the nerve roots that exit the spine, causing severe pain.
Arachnoiditis pain usually affects the lower back and legs and causes a variety of sensations.
- Tingling or “creepy-crawly” feelings on the skin
- Muscle cramps, twitching and spasms
- Shooting, “electric shock” pain
- Bowel, bladder and sexual problems
“It causes a number of symptoms and they can vary in the same individual,” said Dr. Abraham Rivera, chief medical officer of Physician Partners of America.
What Causes Arachnoiditis?
This condition has many causes. The majority are related to contaminants that accidentally get into the dura – the fluid surrounding the spinal column – during certain medical procedures like epidurals and spinal taps. These contaminants include preservatives or impurities. Long ago, oil-based chemicals used in contrast dye tests, like myelograms, were blamed for some cases of arachnoiditis.
How is Arachnoiditis Diagnosed?
This disorder is so uncommon that most doctors rarely see it in their practices, making detection difficult. Fortunately, Physician Partners of America Pain Relief Group has the expertise to identify it and attempt to treat the pain.
The most helpful diagnostic tests are MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and CAT scans (computerized axial tomography). Another test, an EMG (electromyogram), uses electrical impulses to determine the extent of damage to nerve roots. PPOA specialists can perform this test.
What is the Best Arachnoiditis Treatment?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition, but Physician Partners of America offers the hope of relief from arachnoiditis pain. “One common treatment is oral pain medication, but it doesn’t tend to work well,” says Dr. Rivera. “The pain can be managed for some people with a spinal cord stimulator.”
Spinal cord stimulators are minimally implantable devices that send electrical signals to targeted areas of the spinal cord to treat specific pain conditions. It is a minimally invasive procedure that PPOA physicians perform routinely.
Stems cell therapy for arachnoiditis is only in the experimental stage and has not yet been proven helpful.
“We are keeping our eye on the latest research to treat this debilitating condition,” says Dr. Rivera. “Not every current treatment works for everyone, but we make every effort to treat the pain and help sufferers lead a more normal life.”