(BPT) - Nearly 100 million Americans currently live with chronic pain - more than the number of people affected by diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. While that number may be difficult to grasp, for those suffering the issue is very real indeed.
A survey by the American Pain Foundation found that patients battling chronic pain feel depressed, have challenges concentrating and deal with both limited energy and problems sleeping. For many patients relief can be hard to come by. Many aren't sure where to turn for meaningful relief.
'Most people don't know that chronic pain is a disease that needs to be aggressively diagnosed and treated, because left untreated the condition has devastating effects on the whole person - body, mind and spirit,' says Dr. Tory L. McJunkin, an Arizona pain specialist and co-founder and medical director of Pain Doctor, Inc. 'But patients don't have to live with chronic pain. These days, pain specialists have a number of impactful options that can bring their patients chronic pain relief.'
Now, a new advancement - the St. Jude Medical (TM) Invisible Trial System - has made it easier than ever for patients to 'test drive' one such treatment option: spinal cord stimulation (SCS), a treatment that is successful in treating many forms of chronic pain.
SCS therapy utilizes a small implanted medical device and thin wires with electrodes to deliver low levels of electrical energy to mask or interrupt pain signals as they travel to the brain, reducing the sensation of pain. Before receiving a permanently implanted device, patients evaluate SCS therapy through a 'trial period' that can range from five days to two weeks.
The new St. Jude Medical Invisible Trial System is designed to help chronic pain patients better assess spinal cord stimulation therapy during their trial period. The system relies on Bluetooth(R) wireless technology to provide patients a safe, secure and cable-free SCS trial experience. Rather than a bulky complex patient controller, the St. Jude Medical Invisible Trial System provides patients with an iPod touch(TM) mobile digital device to control their stimulation during the trial period. (Apple, iPod touch and iPad Mini are trademarks of Apple, Inc. Bluetooth is a trademark of Bluetooth SIG, Inc.)
Dr. McJunkin recalls one particular patient who had struggled with chronic back pain for more than five years. According to McJunkin, trialing spinal cord stimulation was one key to the patient getting his life back.
'This patient felt like his life was wasting away before trying spinal cord stimulation,' says McJunkin. 'He didn't have the energy or strength to enjoy his grandkids, and even his wife was impacted as she watched her husband consistently deal with his pain. It wasn't until he tried spinal cord stimulation that he was able to get the relief he needed.'
According to McJunkin many chronic pain patients spend years trying a number of different treatments. For some, back surgery will help for a while, but the pain may come back. Others may try physical therapy, chiropractic care, home exercises or several different kinds of injections, but they may not alleviate the pain for very long.
McJunkin says such scenarios aren't uncommon, and that spinal cord stimulation can offer meaningful relief for some patients who are either wary of taking medication long term or who may have failed treatments earlier in the care continuum. However it's important to remember that the implantation of a neurostimulation system can involve risk, such as painful stimulation, loss of pain relief and surgical risks (e.g. paralysis). Patients are encouraged to talk to their physician to determine if spinal cord stimulation therapy is right for them.
'Patients who are eligible for SCS come from all walks of life and have usually already maxed out other pain treatment options like physical therapy or medications,' McJunkin says. 'By providing an easy-to-use and discreet trial system, St. Jude Medical will help patients focus more on their potential pain relief and functional improvements, and less on the burdens common to traditional trial systems.'
Patients living with chronic pain should work with a doctor who is a pain treatment specialist to determine which option is best for them. Some patients may try multiple solutions before finding one that works for them and often exhaust all other possibilities before resorting to surgery. To learn more, visit www.poweroveryourpain.com.