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As many as 100 million Americans may suffer from some type of chronic pain. The treatment of pain that lasts for 3-6 months or more often involves several remedies and techniques. Proven treatments such as heat therapy and physical therapy exercises can be effective if an accurate diagnosis of a patient’s source of pain is made. Still, there are important new strides in pain management that may benefit patients looking for meaningful relief.

Radiofrequency Ablation

RFA works by targeting specific nerves that send pain signals from the area where pain originates to the brain. Radiofrequency ablation involves the insertion of the tip of a heated needle that’s placed close to the nerve that’s responsible for a patient’s pain. It’s been used to ease discomfort from pain affecting the lower back, hips, knees, and the neck. Another version of RFA uses cold sensations instead of heat.

New Spinal Cord Stimulator

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) involves the surgical implantation of a stimulator that delivers electrical impulses to the spine to minimize pain. The new spinal cord stimulator is unique in that it does not need to be recharged and it’s designed to receive technology updates. The new design is based on feedback from patients and physicians.

Peripheral Nerve Stimulation

Peripheral pain refers to discomfort affecting the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. It’s these nerves that are responsible for pain that includes numbness and general weakness. The SPRINT PNS system is a nerve stimulation system that involves threadlike wires and a lightweight, wearable stimulator. Similar devices made by Quell and Cefaly have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of all types of peripheral pain and chronic migraines, respectively.

Combining NSAIDs with L-dopa

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often recommended to manage chronic pain. A new variation of this treatment involves the use of L-dopa, a drug often used to manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The new drug treatment combines an anti-inflammatory drug with L-dopa, an amino acid that increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Researchers recommend using the NSAID-L-dopa combination when lingering pain is first experienced to increase the effectiveness of this treatment.

The choice of treatment options for chronic pain will depend on several factors, including how often pain is experienced, what’s causing it, and whether or not there are underlying contributing factors. The role of a chronic pain doctor is to assess a patient’s condition, identify a likely source of persistent pain, and recommend a treatment plan, which may include a mix of traditional and new pain management techniques.

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