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Alternative treatment options for chronic pain are helping patients like Justin Minyard. Photo courtesy of  StatePoint

Opioid alternatives for chronic pain patients

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

(StatePoint) Decorated veteran Justin Minyard struggled for years with chronic back pain. And though his prescribed opioids provided only minimal relief, he developed a dependency on them. Unfortunately, such circumstances are common, as a growing number of patients are struggling with a choice between addictive pills or the thought of living with debilitating pain.

The American Chronic Pain Association found that one in three Americans suffers from chronic pain, pain that persists for months and sometimes years. As the number one cause of disability in adults in the U.S., chronic pain costs as much as $635 billion yearly, more than the cost of cancer, heart disease or diabetes. What’s more, chronic pain is often treated with opioid pain pills, which are highly addictive and result in 115 overdose deaths in the U.S. per day.

Minyard initially sustained back injuries while serving as a 9/11 first responder, and injuries during two tours of service in Afghanistan and Iraq further damaged his spine, rupturing multiple discs.

“When I returned home, I needed a wheelchair and I developed an opioid addiction from my treatment, which severely impacted my life and the lives of my entire family,” Minyard said. “While surgery got me out of a wheelchair, the pain persisted until I found an alternative treatment option called spinal cord stimulation.”

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS), an FDA-approved, drug-free treatment option, is a surgically implanted medical device that has helped patients manage their chronic pain without addictive pain pills for over 40 years. Most commonly used to treat low back and lower extremity pain, SCS sends electrical pulses that stimulate the spinal cord, masking the pain message traveling to the brain.

Recent technology advances have allowed SCS systems to offer more precise and personalized treatment that better targets individual pain. In particular, the Spectra WaveWriter SCS System from Boston Scientific is the first and only system to simultaneously provide pain relief with a light tingling sensation (paresthesia-based therapy) or without that sensation (sub-perception therapy). Patients like Minyard can choose to combine both therapies to target one specific area of pain or use each as needed to best manage multiple areas of pain. Using a remote control, patients provide real-time feedback for personalized, targeted pain management.

“The flexibility in this treatment has the ability to offer patients successful therapy that other forms of pain management cannot,” said Dr. Louis Raso, a pain specialist at The Pain Center in Jupiter, Florida, who recommended a trial of the Spectra WaveWriter SCS system to Minyard. “When patients take real-time control of their therapy, they can better manage their pain across multiple areas of the body.”

Minyard, who has been off opioid pain medication since his first SCS system implant over eight-and-a-half years ago, has noticed a significant improvement in managing his pain with the latest technology and is encouraging all chronic pain patients to talk to their doctors about therapeutic alternatives to addictive painkillers.

To learn more about SCS and chronic pain, visit Control Your Pain's website, a resource from Boston Scientific, who sponsored this message.

At a time when opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions, having a greater understanding of alternative treatment options for chronic pain is critical for doctors, patients and their families.