Why Neuromodulation Treatment Might Be the Answer to Your Failed Back Surgery

Why Neuromodulation Treatment Might Be the Answer to Your Failed Back Surgery

Back pain can range from a continuous, dull ache to a stabbing or shooting feeling that can hurt more than just your body. Going to work or even performing typical everyday tasks can become challenging or even unbearable.

While many people have found relief from back pain through surgery, this hasn’t been the case for everyone. For some people, back pain persists even after surgery.

When this happens, patients often feel discouraged. However, there’s hope. The board-certified pain management physicians at Pain Management Specialists in Rockville and Frederick, Maryland, have successfully used neuromodulation to help patients with persistent back pain get relief. 

Why back surgery can fail

A combination of factors typically contributes to a failed back surgery. For instance, even if a surgery is considered successful, problematic scar tissue can develop at the surgical site. If scar tissue forms close to a nerve root, this can lead to persistent pain.

For another example, a spinal disc that herniates can herniate again after treatment. When a disc herniates, the inner layer of the disc pushes through the outer layer. This causes a bulge to form, which can place pressure on a nearby nerve and cause pain. In order to relieve the pressure, a little part of the damaged disc is removed.

What's left of the disc after surgery has to support the weight of all your movements. For many people, the disc adapts well after surgery. However, some people experience a recurrent herniated disc, in which the disc bulges again and damages a neighboring nerve.

It can feel defeating and distressing to have persistent pain after hoping for a major improvement. When there’s no obvious benefit to additional surgery, patients are often referred to a pain specialist to evaluate the pain and determine the next steps in alleviating it. 

Neuromodulation for a failed back surgery

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a type of neuromodulation that can relieve pain in patients with persistent pain after back surgery.

This system consists of a small pulse generator, thin wires that are attached to the generator, and a remote control. The pulse generator is implanted. The wires are placed near the nerve that is sending the pain signals.

The pulse generator sends a low electrical current through the wires to the problematic nerve. The current interrupts the pain signals to help alter what you feel and reduce the pain. And with the remote control, you can turn it off or change the intensity of the pulses.

Some SCS devices replace pain with a faint tingling sensation, using a low-frequency current. Other SCS devices disguise pain without tingling by using high-frequency pulses. 

Easing the pain after a failed back surgery

The goal of neuromodulation is to achieve at least a 50% reduction in pain. One advantage of this treatment is the ability to conduct a trial. With a trial, the wires are placed near the problematic nerve, but the pulse generator is worn on a belt for the duration of the trial, which is generally 3-21 days. If you experience adequate pain relief, you can have a permanent spinal cord stimulator placed.

While neuromodulation may not eliminate the pain, it may make the pain much more tolerable. Neuromodulation has helped many patients drastically cut back on their pain medicine and has helped them to do more and function better.

If your back surgery has failed, neuromodulation may be an option for you. To learn more about this treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone with Pain Management Specialists today.

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