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Learn More About Neuromodulation



NEUROMODULATION


Definition


According to the International Neuromodulation Society, neuromodulation is defined as “the alteration of nerve activity through targeted delivery of an input, like electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific medicine sites within the body.” In other words, neuromodulation technology alters abnormal neural behaviour in the brain, spine, or peripheral nerves to relieve pain or restore normal function or bodily control. Nerve stimulations are typically administered with a variety of pharmaceutical agents, electrical signals, or other forms of energy.

Why You May Need This Type of Treatment


For generations, physicians were intrigued by the potential for electrical impulses within the body to produce therapeutic benefits. The era of neuromodulation began in the early 1960’s with the utilization of deep brain stimulation (DBS) to resolve chronic and defiant pain. It evolved to incorporate neural structure stimulation by the end of the last decade.


Neuromodulation devices and treatments are life changing. They have an effect on each space of the body and treat nearly every malady or symptom from headaches, tremors, spinal cord damage, and urinary incontinence. This minimally invasive procedure is typically suggested as supplementary care in conjunction with another treatment, or when symptoms don’t respond to more conservative measures. With such a broad therapeutic scope, and progress in biotechnology, it's no surprise that neuromodulation is poised to be a very progressive industry in the coming years.


While neuromodulation is most commonly associated with pain relief, there are other treatment applications such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson's, Sacral Nerve Stimulation for pelvic disorders and urinary incontinence, and Spinal Cord Stimulation for ischemic disorders (angina, peripheral vascular disease etc.).


Procedure of Neuromodulation


Neurostimulation devices involve the application of electrodes to the brain, the spinal cord or peripheral nerves. They connect via an extension cable to a pulse generator and power supply that generates the required electrical stimulation. A low-tension electrical current passes from the generator to the nerve and might either inhibit pain signals or stimulate neural impulses wherever they were not present previously.


In the case of pharmacological agents delivered through implanted pumps, drugs are often administered in smaller doses because they don’t need to be metabolized and passed through the body before reaching the target point. Smaller doses will mean fewer adverse effects, enhanced patient comfort, and improved quality of life.


Neuromodulation approaches vary from non-invasive techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation to implanted devices, such as spinal cord stimulation or deep brain stimulation. The device is considered a long-term solution to your on-going symptoms, and is therefore normally a permanent implant.

The most common neuromodulation treatment is spinal cord stimulation for chronic neuropathic pain. In addition to chronic pain relief, alternative neuromodulation treatments have been shown to help aid patients experiencing tremors, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, epilepsy and disorders like depression, obsessional compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome.


Providers of such therapies embrace neurosurgeons, pain physicians, specialists and rehabilitation physicians. They will typically work with alternative specialists like neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, gastrointestinal or colorectal specialists, urologists, primary care physicians, and physical therapists to achieve the best outcomes.


Duration of Treatment


Duration of neuromodulation varies depending on the type of condition being treatment and if it is non-invasive or implanted. Consult your provider on what the best approach is for you.


Recovery After Treatment


While recovery normally takes about a week, the exact amount of time required to recover from these treatments will depend upon several patient-specific factors. It’s always best to check with your neuromodulation team for the most accurate estimation.


Possible Risks and Side Effects


There are complications that are general to any implant into the body and complications that are specific to the technique, therapy and disease. Common adverse effects include skin irritation, headache and general uneasiness. You should ask your doctor about any common or dangerous possible side effects before embarking on a new treatment.


Consult the Team at Northern Arizona Spine and Pain


Before moving forward with treatment such as the sacroiliac joint block procedure, you should always consult a professional to discuss other options, possible risks and side effects, long-term effects, and any other questions you may have. The team at Northern Arizona Spine and Pain is highly qualified professionals and can be a helpful resource when considering any type of pain-reducing treatments. Please visit our website to learn more about procedures or to book an appointment: www.NAZspineandpain.com.



References


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Blok, B.F., et al., Different brain effects during chronic and acute sacral neuromodulation in urge incontinent patients with implanted neurostimulators. BJU Int, 2006. 98(6): p. 1238-43.

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