Eighty percent of Americans will be affected by back pain at some point in their lifetime, while many people will recover after a few weeks of rest, others will not be so lucky. The onset of back pain can occur suddenly or gradually, ranging from a sharp pain to a constant dull ache. Acute pain is characterized by sudden onset, lasting less then 6 weeks, while chronic pain lasts longer than 3 months.
Back pain can stem from mechanical problems, injuries, diseases, conditions, infection, stress and tumors. The goal is to improve the individual’s quality of life and ability to function, along with pain management. Prescription opioids are extremely effective in treating pain, but they have potentially serious risks, including dependence and accidental overdose. With the growing epidemic of opioid abuse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging pain sufferers to seek safer alternatives and physicians to avoid prescribing opiates for chronic pain.
David Provenzano, an anesthesiologist at Heritage Valley Health System in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, treats acute and chronic pain, related to herniated discs, cancer, sciatica, pinched nerve and compression fractures. He said there are four primary ways to treat pain, including medications, physical therapy, psychological counseling, minimally invasive procedures and sometimes a combination of methods.
“Dealing with pain can sometimes be burdensome,” said Provenzano, who is on the board of directors of two national organizations, the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine and the North American Neuromodulation Society.
“I think what we need to do with pain management is we need to shift the thought of what a pain doctor does, because the statistics show that by the time someone gets to a pain doctor, they’ve seen six to seven physicians, they’ve probably incurred about $60,000 and $70,000 in medical costs, and they’ve probably waited about six to seven years. So we have to shift much earlier.”
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid pain medications by health care providers throughout the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Provenzano surgically implants the innovative neurostimulator in the back, with small leads or wires situated near the spine. The device is battery-operated and controlled with a remote, transmitting high-frequency electrical impulses through the leads to the back.
People, who have been suffering from nerve pain less than two years, respond much better than long-term chronic pain sufferers, making it even more crucial to intervene early.