A chronic pain condition can be physically and mentally stressful, affecting one’s overall quality of life. There are a number of causes for this insufferable pain – accident, illness, poor postures, etc. Such persistent aches are generally associated with the abnormal functioning/breakdown of the nervous system processes (the peripheral and central nervous system, spinal cord, and brain). Fortunately, the sophisticated methods for chronic pain management make it possible for patients to go on with their normal life.
Neurosurgery Treatment & Chronic Pain
Prolonged pain in the body due to any disease or injury in the nervous system is treated with a specialized branch of surgery known as neurosurgery. Some of the chronic pains treated by the neurosurgery specialists include:
1. Degenerative Disc Disease
It’s one of the most common types of chronic pain caused by deterioration of/ injury to the spinal disc (area between the vertebrae of the spinal column). It is usually treated with anti-inflammatories, exercise, and massage. However, if the disc causes persistent pain or numbness in the legs and arm, a surgical operation may be needed. This is required especially in cases where degeneration of the disc results in compression and instability of the nerves or spine. The following neurosurgeries can be considered by the neurosurgery and spine specialists:
- Discectomy – It involves the removal of one or more damaged discs.
- Spinal Fusion – This is commonly combined with a discectomy for correcting the misalignments of the spinal column. After the removal of the disc, the surrounding vertebrae are synthesized together to provide stability to the unstable spine.
- Artificial Disc Replacement – A damaged disc can also be replaced with a prosthetic disc. This also gives stability to the spine.
2. Spinal Stenosis Pain
The narrowing down of the spinal canal in the lower back leads to this condition. A person experiencing this pain will feel mild or severe discomfort in the arms, shoulder and/or neck. It can be treated with a simple outpatient surgical procedure of percutaneous image-guided lumbar decompression that requires no stitches. Yet, more complex forms of spinal surgery may be needed to relieve the painful pressure on the spinal cord. Neurosurgeries for spinal stenosis pain include:
- Laminotomy — The pressure on the nerve roots is relieved by removing a portion of the lamina or vertebrae.
- Laminoplasty — A space is created in the spinal canal by performing surgery on the vertebrae in the cervix.
- Interspinous Process Spacers — It is also known as vertiflex and involves the use of local anesthesia. Spacers between the vertebral bones are inserted for creating more space in the spinal canal.
3. Back Pain
The lower, middle and upper areas in the back can experience pain due to a fall, injury, muscle pull, and other such factors. When the non-surgical treatments fail to give relief to the patients, these surgeries may be recommended by a spine neurosurgeon:
- Spinal Fusion — In case of loss of bowel/ bladder function or increasing weakness, accurate support to the spine is given by spinal fusion surgery.
- Discectomy — Any inflammation or irritation of the spinal nerves is treated by the surgical removal of the herniated portion of the spinal disc.
- Laminectomy — Pressure on the spinal nerves is relieved by the removal of portions of the bone/ bone spurs or the ligaments to eliminate pressure on the spinal nerves. This surgery is generally recommended for lumbar spinal stenosis.
- Disc Replacement — This surgery offers speedy recovery as compared to spinal fusion. An artificial disc is implanted to replace the damaged one.
- Foraminotomy — A particular nerve in the bony window (called the foramen) may become narrow, causing back pain. This foramen window is widened to manage the pain.
4. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) –
An injury, surgery, or heart stroke can lead to throbbing pain and burning in an arm/leg, causing this syndrome. Surgical intervention is required only in severe cases of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Here are some of the surgeries to treat symptoms of chronic pain for CRPS:
- Upper thoracic or lumbar surgical sympathectomy – This is performed when a nerve is compressed by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. A portion of the sympathetic nerve trunk is eliminated to minimize the pressure on the nerve.
- Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) – A device (known as the spinal cord stimulator) is surgically implanted under the skin, near the abdomen or hip area. It sends a controlled signal to the brain to stop the pain in the spinal cord.
Pain, swelling, weakness, or numbness in different parts of the body caused by a nerve condition is termed neuropathy. Neuralgia, on the other hand, is characterized by inflammation, infection/ pain in one or more nerves due to a wound, infection, or an autoimmune disorder. There are various neurosurgeries for these conditions. Here’s a list of a few that your surgeon may recommend.
- Thermocoagulation – High-frequency electric currents producing heat are used for the coagulation of tissues in the brain.
- Microvascular Decompression – It is a brain surgery that treats a compressed nerve which can cause pain in the muscles.
- Peripheral Neurolysis – A tissue surrounding the peripheral nerve that may have caused damage or pain to it, is surgically targeted.
- Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) – Electrodes are placed in particular brain areas that produce electrical impulses to control pain.
So if you’re looking for proven chronic pain treatments, a neurosurgery clinic may help you.