Neuromodulation For Chronic Pain: One Answer To The Opioid Epidemic?
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, and a common way to treat it is through the use of prescription opioids. However, the long-term use of opioids can result in both tolerance and dependence.
Given the ever-increasing rates of overdoses and addiction, many doctors have been looking for alternative methods to treat pain without the risks. Unfortunately, some of these treatments aren’t covered by insurers, because they are much more expensive than opioids.
Neuromodulation is an alternative pain treatment has been around since the 1960s, but recent advancements in technology have made these devices more precise at targeting pain. The treatment consists of a device that sends electrical signals to specific nerves in the body, creating an interference that prevents the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
Back pain, for example, is treated by stimulating a portion of the spine, also known as spinal cord stimulation. However, spinal cord stimulation can also be used to treat pain in the arms, legs, hips, and feet, and even migraines.
For the procedure, the patient has electrical leads inserted into the body. The leads then link up with a battery that can be placed either inside or outside the body, depending on the device being used. The patient can control the battery and signals by using an external device, such as an iPad.
Around 34,000 people had the spinal cord stimulation procedure in 2016. For most patients, this is the last resort, with implants being placed after other treatments have failed. But could making use of these devices sooner decrease healthcare costs overall, considering the amount of money that’s been spent fighting the opioid crisis?
Indeed, insurers have been reluctant to pay for these procedures, but the cost of opioids can spike dramatically when patients become dependent and need to undergo addiction treatment.
Just this month, BioElectronics announced it was conducting a new study on 60 subjects suffering from chronic lower back pain.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology