New type of nerve stimulation relieves chronic back pain

A new type of nerve stimulation therapy could provide long-term relief for chronic back pain that has not responded to other treatments, including spinal cord stimulation. It could also help certain people who need a non-drug form of pain therapy.

So, concludes a study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, that featured recently at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in San Francisco, CA.

The new therapy is called dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation, and it works by targeting only the nerve fibers carrying signals from the source of pain. Unlike spinal cord stimulation, it avoids nerve fibers that convey messages from non-painful regions.

The recent study evaluated the impact on pain and disability of permanent DRG stimulator implants in people with chronic pain in their lower extremities and back.

Those who received the DRG stimulation says lead author Robert J. McCarthy, who is a professor of anesthesiology at Rush Medical College, “had tried numerous therapies, from drugs to spinal cord stimulation to surgery, but got little to no lasting pain relief.”

They reported “significant improvement in pain even after a year, which is notable,” he suggests, adding that, “For most, DRG stimulation really improved their quality of life.”

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