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Pain Fighters: April 29, 2011

The medicine cabinet is often the first line of defense when someone is experiencing pain but that's changing. "There are a lot of really neat advanced technologies that are out there," says Dr. Adam Shuster, a pain management physician on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

He sees a variety of patients with a variety of problems. Chronic pain is one of the most problematic. And that's when new technology can play a major role.

"Essentially, they've been through the wringer. Patients had surgery. They've had multi-medications. They can't tolerate medications because of side effects. They've had injections. They've had therapy. They've had acupuncture, massage therapy, everything, and nothing is working then we do have these things called spinal cord stimulators."

Spinal cord stimulators are part of a larger group of technological therapies called neuromodulation. "Its like a pacemaker but for the spine. To simplify it, it helps basically block pain signals that are going up to the brain and replaces them with a different kind of sensation," explains Dr. Shuster.

This kind of technology is influential in other areas, too. "In some patients, mostly in this country, the number one indication is what's called failed back surgery syndrome or post-lamenectomy syndrome. Which happens sometimes in patients who have pain after back surgery, pain in their back or pain down their leg."

Another advantage is that side effects are very minimal. Sometimes it's the side effects in pain medications that can be an unexpected contributor to chronic pain.