Chronic pain

Treatment of chronic pain

Drug therapy

This is the first type of treatment to be tried. A variety of medications may be prescribed, and their use is adjusted after some time has passed to see how effective they are.

Nerve block

This involves decreasing how much pain is felt by blocking the affected nerve directly with an anesthetic. This blocks the pain signals and prevents the pain being felt more intensely in parts of the spinal cord above the block and nearer the brain. Blood vessels that have contracted as a result of the pain may also be expanded by nerve block. Nerve block also prevents the generation of substances that cause pain and their spread into surrounding areas. As a result, it breaks the vicious circle of constantly worsening pain. Nerve block is only temporarily effective, but when used several times its effect becomes much stronger. It does become less effective when used repeatedly over a long period of time, however, and other treatment methods must be considered.

Surgical treatment

If imaging reveals a lesion that is compressing a nerve, surgical treatment to relieve the pressure on the nerve by removing the lesion is chosen.

Spinal cord stimulation therapy

Spinal cord stimulation therapy involves sending a weak electrical signal into the spinal cord, creating a constant, not uncomfortable tingling sensation at the site where the pain is felt. This stimulated sensation replaces the sensation of pain felt within the brain, and it is effective in relieving the pain sensation as a result. It has a similar effect to nerve block, and it is therefore chosen as a method of treatment for patients in whom nerve block is effective. Patients for whom nerve block is repeatedly effective can experience long-term pain relief through this method, improving their quality of life. With spinal cord stimulation therapy, patients themselves can vary the intensity and location of stimulation depending on their pain level, or discontinue stimulation temporarily. Patients with chronic pain can combine drug therapy, rehabilitation, and spinal cord stimulation therapy, offering them the chance to return to their usual lifestyles.

The generator implanted in spinal cord stimulation therapy can also be removed should the chronic pain be cured.

More details of spinal cord stimulation therapy are given on a separate page.

>> Go to Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy page

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation aims to restore function so that patients who have found that pain imposes restrictions on their normal lifestyle can return to the way they lived before. Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and clinical psychologists work as a team to give patients exercises that will help them return to their old way of life. Of course, rehabilitation is most effective when combined with other forms of treatment.

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