In a recent study from King’s College London, researchers found that spinal cord stimulation may drastically reduce chronic back pain.
Researchers treated 20 patients with stubborn low back pain by implanting electrodes near the spinal cord. During the treatment, they stimulated it with “ultra-low” frequency electrical pulses.
They found that after two weeks, 90% of the patients were reporting at least an 80% reduction in their pain ratings
In the study, researchers implant electrodes near the spinal cord, along with a pulse generator that is placed under the skin of the buttocks or abdomen.
Patients can then use a remote control to send electrical pulses to the spinal cord when they are in pain. The theory is that the stimulation interrupts the spinal cord’s transmission of pain signals to the brain.
The effectiveness of the approach, though, varies from person to person, and researchers have been looking at ways to refine it.
In the study, the team tested an ultra-low frequency spinal cord stimulation.
The researchers started with lab experiments in rats, and then moved on to 20 patients with chronic low back pain, many of whom also had pain running down the leg (commonly known as sciatica).
The researchers implanted electrodes in all 20; two patients dropped out due to infection at the surgical site.
The team found among the 18 patients who finished the two-week study, pain ratings improved by an average of 90%. Nearly all of the patients had improvements of at least 80%.
When the electrodes were removed, patients’ back pain came roaring back.
The team says further clinical studies will be needed to define the therapy’s effectiveness and how long it lasts. It may be possible to use the technique for a range of conditions other than back pain.
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The study is published in Science Translational Medicine. One author of the study is Martyn G. Jones.
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