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As an intervention for chronic pain, particularly in the back or legs, neurostimulation can be an effective frontline, alternative or adjunct treatment. Historically, neurostimulation has been used when other therapies that have failed to manage pain. However, recent advancements in design and reductions in cost have made this treatment much more practical. For today’s practitioner, neurostimulation therapy is an effective alternative for cases where systemic pain medications are ineffective or create undesirable side effects.
Neurostimulation devices delivers pulses of low-level electrical current through a lead. The lead is typically attached to an optimal point in the patient’s nerve network. The low-level current interferes with pain signals on the neural pathways. Efficacy is achieved when pain signals are inhibited before they reach the brain. As a result, patients report experiencing pain relief.
Neurostimulation has been used to treat many conditions, including peripheral arterial disease (PAD). In patients with PAD, the electrical impulses from the stimulator have been shown to improve circulation in the legs, resulting in improved mobility and pain reduction. Neurostimulation therapy has also been used to reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures. In many cases, patients and their families prefer this treatment to antiepileptic medications, which create an undesirable level of sedation. In addition, there are several investigational uses being researched for neurostimulation. For instance, because neurostimulation can trigger the release of catecholamines, it may be useful in relieving asthma attacks. Treatments for anxiety, craving, stroke, tinnitus, and traumatic brain injury based on neurostimulation practices are also being studied.
Whether for its efficacy or for its popularity with patients, medical practices should consider offering neurostimulation therapy. For certain device systems, application is relatively easy to perform and training requirements and costs are modest. In many cases, medical centers will be able to develop a neurostimulation practice within a few months.
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