When discussing options for managing chronic pain, surgery is a topic that may be brought up in hopes of providing a solution. However, treating chronic pain with surgery is more difficult than it sounds—the process is expensive and there are many risks. Read on for more information:
What’s the Difference?
For people whose pain is caused by a specific source—like cancer, arthritis, or some kind of wound—surgery may be the best option. Removing tumors and replacing joints may not solve the pain problem, but certainly, help decrease it. In some cases, a slipped disc in the spine may be causing the pain because of how it’s positioned as well, and in that case, it would need to be removed or replaced. However, chronic pain with no apparent cause is a bit more difficult to operate with. Since this pain is entirely neurological, surgical procedures may not even work for some patients. In this case, neurosurgery for pain relief is always a final option.
Types of Neurosurgery to Help with Pain
There are many types of surgeries that can potentially relieve chronic pain, consisting of:
· Microvascular Decompression
This procedure is done on a small scale and works best for people who suffer from frequent pinched nerves. During the procedure, the terminal end of a nerve is exposed, and so is the blood vessel compressing it. The procedure involves moving the nerve ending away from the blood vessel to prevent further compression.
Rhizotomies come in two main types: radiofrequency rhizotomy, and glycerol rhizotomy. In a radiofrequency rhizotomy, the patient’s pain is treated through electrocoagulation, a process that destroys tissue using heat. Used most often with spinal pain, this method attempts to kill the nerves at the spine to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.
Glycerol rhizotomies work similarly but use glycerol injections to damage specific nerves enough so they no longer send pain signals.
· Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation is a pain relief technique that involves giving the patient a low-current electrical shock directly to the spinal cord as a means of disrupting pain signals. This procedure works best for those who experience pain from prior back surgeries and nerve pain.
· Deep Brain Stimulation
Similar to spinal cord stimulation, deep brain stimulation (or DBS) also uses electricity to disrupt pain signals. In a DBS procedure, small electrodes are placed on specific parts of the brain, similar to how someone would place electrodes on targeted areas of the body with a TENS unit. Unlike most other surgeries, DBS is reversible and electrode placement can be adjusted after implantation. DBS is most often used to treat Parkinson’s.
Finding a method to treat your pain can be a grueling, difficult journey, and in some cases, surgery ends up being the best option. However, it is always best to talk with your primary care physician if you are experiencing any pain, or your current pain relief options aren’t effective. To browse other pain management methods, visit Medical Supply Depot.