Research suggests that more than 20% of American adults suffer from chronic pain. Despite its prevalence, however, the pain remains challenging to treat, especially in the long term. Every patient’s pain is difficult to quantify and as unique as their nervous system. Treatments for chronic pain have traditionally included pharmaceutical and surgical interventions. Unfortunately, neither is perfect; pain medication can be dangerously addictive or carry uncomfortable side effects, and surgical procedures can be imprecise, eliminating all sensations in the affected area.
Neuromodulation presents an effective alternative. The International Neuromodulation Society defines it as “the alteration of nerve activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological sites in the body.” It involves minor surgery – many procedures are minimally invasive – to place a small device near one’s spinal cord that electrically or pharmaceutically stabilizes the nervous system like a pacemaker stabilizes heart rhythms.
The applications of neuromodulation are extensive – it can be used to treat chronic pain and incontinence, Parkinson’s Disease, and ischemic disorders. Neuromodulation can even treat deafness via cochlear implants, which, instead of regulating existing nerve activity, actually create a response where none had existed.
The first neuromodulating device was implanted in a patient in 1967, and the field has multiplied since. The technology has demonstrated its safety and effectiveness in the ensuing decades, and the worldwide neuromodulation device industry is worth more than $10 billion. Recent advances have made the devices smaller, more efficient, more precise, and easier to implant.
Chronic pain remains a primary application of the technology, as it carries none of the risks of potent analgesics such as opioids. Neuromodulation replaces painkillers in many patients, and in others, it can prevent dependency and toxicity by delivering much smaller doses directly to the nervous system. Instead of a constant regimen of pills with their attendant health risks and side effects, patients undergo a minor procedure and may experience significant relief within days or hours.
Physician Partners of America includes neuromodulation in our array of treatments for chronic pain and other neurological conditions, especially for those whose pharmaceutical intervention has proved ineffective. For more information, please talk to your doctor or call one of our local clinics.