Chronic pain can affect just about everything you do, from sitting and walking to standing and working. Usually, we manage chronic pain with non-surgical methods such as injections, nerve blocks, or oral medications.
When these treatments fail and severe pain becomes a chronic condition, peripheral nerve stimulation implants may be the next step for you.
What Exactly Is Peripheral Nerve Stimulation?
This treatment is a kind of neuromodulation. In other words, it is a surgical procedure where electrodes are implanted into your body to change the way your nervous system works. Peripheral nerve stimulation involves placing the electrodes on the nerves or just under your skin where the pain is.
It is a minimally invasive procedure, that merely requires a small incision over the targeted region.
Peripheral nerve stimulation differs from spinal cord stimulation in that is places the stimulating implant right over your nerve in the targeted area of pain and not on your spinal cord, where nerves originate.
Who Is a Suitable Candidate for Peripheral Nerve Stimulation for Chronic Pain?
So, are you a candidate for this type of therapy?
If other therapies and medications have failed to treat your pain symptoms, it may be time to consider peripheral nerve stimulation, particularly if you experience:
· Nerve entrapments
· Nerve injury
· Chronic headaches
· Occipital neuralgia
· Complex regional pain
What Happens During the Procedure?
You get to stay awake during your peripheral nerve stimulation surgery. This allows the specialists to test the electrodes and make sure that they are in the right area. You will be put under a local anesthetic and the procedure takes place in two stages.
During the first stage, X-ray guidance is used to place the electrode over the targeted area of pain. The device is then tested so that you can tell the specialist whether or not you feel the stimulation in the right place. You then get to try out the stimulation for about a week to ensure that it is the right treatment for you.
If you like the results after a week, you can then return to the operating room for stage two of the procedure, which is a permanent implant.
How to Prepare for Your Peripheral Nerve Stimulation Implants
Prior to your procedure, you need to have a consultation with your specialist. During that time, it is important to mention if you have any of the following:
· Bleeding problems
· Blood clotting
· High blood pressure
· If you have ever had blood clots in your lungs (pulmonary emboli) or in your legs (deep venous thrombosis)
· If you are taking warfarin, aspirin or any other anticoagulant medications, or even herbal supplements that could thin the blood
· Any other health problems
Just Before Surgery
Before surgery, you will be required to fill in several pain charts. These charts are important in planning the procedure and monitoring your response to the implants.
The first chart you need to fill in is a body map. You will need to shade in the areas of your body where you experience pain.
The next chart is a pain diary. You can fill this in over a period of about a week. If the pain tends to vary over a day, do a couple of scores each day. However, if the pain is constant throughout the day, a daily score is sufficient.
Finally, you may be required to fill in a questionnaire. The questionnaire provides a range of words to help you describe your pain and you must pick the words that best describe the pain for you.
Is Peripheral Nerve Stimulation Successful for Pain?
Studies show that peripheral nerve stimulation implants help as many as 70% of patients who undergo the treatment. The rate of reduction in pain tends to vary from one patient to the next. However, on average, pain scores are reduced by about half.
For instance, if your pain score is 10/10, implants may help reduce the pain to 5/10.
This type of treatment has proven particularly successful in eliminating the burning sensation experienced with pain in the majority of patients.