phantom limb pain

Pain Management Content Related to phantom limb pain.

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Many people with the following conditions have received tremendous pain relief from Spinal Cord Stimulation:

Failed Back and Neck Surgery

Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Radiculopathy

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Peripheral Neuropathy Pain

Phantom Limb Pain

Post-Herpetic Neuralgia

Other nerve-related pain syndromes

Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is a safe and effective treatment method for various pain syndromes. In order for you to perceive pain, an electrical pain signal must travel from the origin of pain to your brain. The spinal cord stimulator delivers an array of electrical stimulation that blocks these pain signals. It replaces them with a pleasant tingling sensation referred to as a paresthesia.

When discussing SCS with patients, I use the analogy of dropping a hammer on your toe. There is an obvious source (the hammer) and location (your toe). The pain signal travels up nerves in the foot and leg to the spinal cord. It then travels up the spinal cord into the brain. At that point, you perceive the pain. One instinct is to rub your foot or ankle (not the toe). This rubbing creates an alternate signal that confuses your nervous system. This reduces the amount of pain signals transmitted to your brain. The SCS device delivers an electrical stimulus (a.k.a. the rubbing) directly over the area in the spinal cord where the pain signal is traveling. It prevents your brain from perceiving the full pain signal.

A SCS trial consists of placing one or two catheters into the epidural space utilizing X-Ray guidance.  No incisions are needed for this.  Each catheter contains between 4 and 8 electrical contacts.  The catheters are connected to an external battery.  The device is programmed to provide comfortable coverage of painful areas.  The patient can turn the device on/off, up/down, and change programs during the trial with a remote control.  If greater than 50% of pain relief is achieved with significant functional improvement, the trial is considered successful.  If we are both in agreement that this device will provide a significant improvement in quality of life, permanent SCS implantation is then scheduled.  I perform these on an outpatient basis under moderate sedation and local anesthesia (not general anesthesia).   On average, a trial takes 20-30 minutes and a permanent implant takes 75-90 minutes.

As an example, I recently performed a SCS trial for a patient who had 4 previous lumbar spine surgeries with continued low back and leg pain.  After conservative management was exhausted,  a two-lead SCS trial was performed 2 weeks ago.  During the trial, my patient reported 80% pain reduction.  As she enjoys gardening, she spent the entire week doing yard work that she has not been able to perform for years.  She stated that it was the first time in years that she woke up in the morning with no pain.  Permanent implantation is scheduled.

It is very important to realize that not everyone will benefit from a SCS device.  Success begins with proper patient selection.

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Post-Amputation Pain

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

After limb amputation, chronic pain can be a major issue.  Pain at the stump site can be a nagging problem due to recurrent infection, skin breakdown, pressure ulcers from prosthetic devices, etc.  Neuromas (abnormal overgrowth of nerve fibers) can also form at the site of amputation and can cause severe neuropathic pain.

After amputation, patients often have phantom limb sensation.  They sense the feeling of the body part that is no longer there.  Normal sensation is generally not a problem, but occasionally these can be painful (Phantom Limb Pain).  Patients experience severe shooting and burning pain in the limb that was already amputated.

Treatment initially involves medication management centered on neuropathic pain medications.  Psychological / cognitive behavioral therapy is also very important.  Spinal Cord Stimulation has been shown to be a very effective long-term therapy.

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Origins of Chronic Pain

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Pain of Spinal Origin:

Causes of low back pain include lumbar degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, lumbar radiculopathy, discogenic pain, facet joint arthropathy, sacroiliac joint arthropathy / dysfunction, and myofascial pain.

Causes of chronic neck pain include cervical degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, cervical radiculopathy, discogenic pain, facet joint arthropathy, occipital neuralgia, and myofascial pain.

Neuropathic Pain (nerve – generated pain)

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) a.k.a. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Lumbar, Thoracic, or Cervical Radiculopathy

Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (Shingles Pain)

Occipital Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Post-Stroke Pain (Central Pain)

Phantom Limb Pain

Multiple Sclerosis

Peripheral Neuropathy (e.g. Diabetic)

Mononeuropathies (after damage to a single nerve)

Arthritis Pain (Joint Pain)

Rheumatoid Arthritis


Cancer Pain

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