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More Than A Niggling Back Pain
Over 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain. And 8 out of 10 persons will experience some degree of back pain in a lifetime. However, there is a particular subset where the pain is too much to bear. Chronic back pain affects about 16 million Americans and counting. Chronic pain is consistent pain for 3 or more consecutive months. To treat pain, doctors may use a range of treatments. These include steroid injections or a spinal cord stimulator.
Steroid injections to the spine
For crippling pain, medical practitioners often recommend a steroid injection. Known as corticosteroid injection, doctors use the drug to treat inflammation in the lower back. The shots are usually compared to epidurals received during pregnancy. Over the years, the injections have grown in popularity for quick, effective relief of chronic back pain.
Setting up for the shot
Steroid injections are a quick outpatient procedure. After filling out documentation, the patient will go to the operating room and lay flat on the stomach. Then the doctor will clean the lower back area. The doctor then draws the medicine with a syringe and gives the injection. The process happens quickly with minimal pain. The steroid will take several days to kick in. So the patient will still take regular pain management measures until the effects kick in.
Do steroid injections work?
Steroid injections can last up to 3 months. According to research, steroid injections can bring relief for 50-80% of patients. This depends on the type of issue affecting the patient. However, in many cases, the pain returns. And this makes sense, as a steroid injection treats only the symptom and not the cause. The efficacy of the shots varies from person to person. In some instances, the injection may be strong enough to stall the need for surgery. However, expect that doctors may still recommend surgery to address the actual cause of the pain.
A shock to the system
Spinal cord stimulators are handy devices used for chronic back pain. The device uses electricity through thin wires called leads. Surgeons implant the leads over the spinal cord, which is connected to a battery. This allows the device to send electrical impulses up the spine. These impulses disrupt the pain signals received by the brain.
A step-by-step process for install
Getting a spinal cord stimulator is no small feat. First, the doctor will do an evaluation to determine if the device is the right option. Even then, doctors require patients to go through a trial period. Doctors install the stimulator externally for a few days so the patient can gauge the effectiveness. Once all parties agree on a way forward, a surgeon implants the device in a simple outpatient procedure.
Gauging spinal cord stimulator efficacy
Research has shown stimulators bring relief of up to 70% in 50% of patients. Long-term pain management makes the device very effective as the device can provide relief for several years. Furthermore, the power can be adjusted with an increase in pain. With most surgeries, implantation has possible complications and can fail. Doctors will outline the risks to help patients make the best decision.
So which one is better?
Both steroid injections and spinal cord stimulators have shown to provide relief to back pain sufferers. Doctors will offer different options based on the needs of the patient. Steroid injections are an effective alternative to surgery. However, these shots can lose effectiveness if continuously used. If a patient still feels pain after surgery, a stimulator can be a long-term solution. Speak with a healthcare provider to assess chronic back pain and get a recommendation for the best treatment option.