How technology is simplifying relief of chronic pain
Doctors hate seeing patients suffering from chronic pain, and not just because their instinct is immediately to want to help their patients to feel better. One of the primary challenges doctors confront is that even though chronic pain is common, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose and treat. The condition can be debilitating for patients and frustrating for the doctors trying to help them.
“Chronic pain is a multi-faceted condition,” says Dr. Ahmed Raslan, assistant professor of Neurological Surgery at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland. “The causes are varied, and each person experiences chronic pain differently. The sheer number of variables in play can make effective treatment extremely complex. It’s not unusual for doctors and patients to try multiple types and combinations of treatment before finding something that provides at least partial relief, and that process can take months and even years.”
More than 11 percent of American adults suffer from chronic pain, according to a recent National Institutes of Health study. People who live with chronic pain report numerous negative effects on their lives, including damage to personal relationships, decreased productivity at work, disruption of their daily routine and even depression. The Institute of Medicine has estimated the medical costs and lost productivity associated with chronic pain could cost as much as $635 billion per year.
“Many chronic pain patients face barriers to effective treatment, including the need for continual doctor visits to adjust aspects of their treatment, and difficulty traveling to meet with their physicians,” Dr. Raslan says. “Conditions such as intractable back pain, nerve injury, neck pain, pain after hernia operations, spinal cord injury pain, post herpetic neuralgia, complex regional pain syndrome, and pain after failed back surgery can force patients to try multiple treatments. Once they’ve tried a number of options and still have not achieved the desired comfort they may become a candidate for spinal cord stimulation therapy.”
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) therapy treats chronic pain by interrupting pain signals before they reach the brain. According to Dr. Raslan, the therapy works by “flooding the gates of the spinal cord so it cannot allow unpleasant pain signals to pass through the gates. Depending on how fast and regular the therapy is being delivered, patients may feel a slight tingling sensation in the area of the body associated with their pain, and in most cases patients report that sensation replaces the feeling of pain, which corresponds to pain relief.”
Though SCS has been around for years, recent advances from St. Jude Medical have made the proven effective treatment simpler for patients and doctors to use successfully. St. Jude Medical recently launched the Proclaim Elite SCS System, which is the most advanced SCS system the company has ever developed, and which includes a new, innovative platform that enables patients to adjust therapy with an Apple iPod Touch mobile device. The application is easy to use which the company hopes will enhance patient experience and delivery optimal results for patients.
The company does note that implantation of a spinal cord stimulation system can involve risk, such as painful stimulation, loss of pain relief and surgical risks, such as paralysis, during the implantation procedure. Patients should talk to their physician to determine if spinal cord stimulation therapy is right for them and their particular pain condition.
For many patients the therapy can deliver pain relief leading to dramatic improvement in quality of life. “Before I tried SCS, managing my chronic pain was very difficult,” says Ronald Seeling, 50, of Warren, Oregon, a patient of Dr. Raslan. “For many years, I was taking a lot of pain medication and my quality of life was diminished. I could barely walk and couldn’t do things around the house or visit with my grandkids.”
Seeling says SCS has provided him with more predictable and consistent chronic pain relief.
“Best of all, I was able to ‘test drive’ the treatment before I committed to it,” Seeling says. “Just a few months later, my pain is under control and I’m able to attend the grandkids’ ball games and birthday parties and even help with the dishes.”
“I’m encouraged by the convenience and freedom that my patients experience with this cutting-edge treatment,” Dr. Raslan says. “It has helped people like Ronald take control of their chronic pain and experience a better quality of life.”
Raslan cautions that SCS may not be right for everyone, so talk to your doctor about treatment options for your chronic pain. For more information, visit www.PowerOverYourPain.com, a site provided by St. Jude Medical, a leader in technologies to treat chronic pain.