At Alliance Pain Solutions, we believe in taking a conservative approach to back pain. Using proven protocols, we look to find positive outcomes with the least-invasive treatments possible. Sometimes, though, certain types of back pain just do not respond to traditional treatment. Perhaps you have tried chiropractic or physical therapy with no relief and you’d like to avoid going the surgical route. In these cases, we may turn to dorsal root ganglion stimulation as an option for pain relief.

What is dorsal root ganglion stimulation?

The dorsal root ganglion are a collection of nerve cell bodies that are located in the vertebrae, close to the dorsal nerve root. This nerve root takes sensory information (i.e., pain and other sensations) from your peripheral nervous system and sends it along to the central nervous system for processing.

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation uses mild electrical pulses delivered via implanted electrodes to interrupt the transmission of these pain signals. The patient controls the transmission of these weak pulses as needed.

In a study of dorsal root ganglion stimulation, patients experienced more pain relief than those who received other spinal cord stimulation (just over 74% to 53%). Additionally, those patients experienced more relief after 12 months (without a “pins and needles” feeling that can accompany spinal cord stimulation).

For many, dorsal root ganglion stimulation relieves symptoms beyond pain, including:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Pins and needles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sweating
  • Sensitivity to pain, heat, and cold

With less need for medication and the potential for more targeted pain relief, dorsal root ganglion stimulation may be the treatment you are looking for.

How can dorsal root ganglion stimulation help me?

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation often helps patients with intractable pain that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It may relieve pain and other symptoms associated with:

  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Pain after amputation
  • Coccydynia
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy

Complex regional pain syndrome is a condition that primarily affects the lower limbs. Because sensory information to limbs is delivered via the peripheral nervous system (and the dorsal root nerve), dorsal root ganglion might offer some relief.

For failed back surgery syndrome, dorsal root ganglion stimulation may be a better opportunity to provide long-lasting relief without relying on medication. Patients who wish to avoid medication or another surgery may be good candidates for dorsal root ganglion as a less-invasive procedure with fewer potential complications or side effects.

Neuropathic pain and pain that persists after amputation also both respond well to dorsal root ganglion stimulation. In general, any patient who is experiencing chronic, intractable pain that occurs in the lower half of their body (including conditions like coccydynia and diabetic peripheral neuropathy) may be a good candidate for dorsal root ganglion stimulation.

While there are no specific factors that would limit a patient’s ability to receive this treatment, it is best to discuss your concerns completely to make sure dorsal root ganglion stimulation is the right choice for you.

What can I expect during a dorsal root ganglion stimulation procedure?

During a dorsal root ganglion stimulation procedure, a small pulse generator and thin wires called leads are surgically inserted into a patient’s back, next to the spine.

The patient controls the generator with a hand-held remote that turns the generator on and off and adjusts the frequency and intensity of the electrical pulses. The generator is powered by a small battery. Because the space for implantation near the dorsal nerve root is very small, the leads to the generator are exceptionally thin. This means less drain on the battery and fewer battery changes.

The electrical pulses from the patient-controlled generator intercept pain signals en route to the brain by delivering low-intensity electrical pulses. These pulses trigger specific nerves on the dorsal root ganglion, resulting in pinpointed pain relief that is more precise than spinal cord stimulation, a similar procedure.

When you first receive a dorsal root ganglion stimulator, the electrical pulses may feel like pins and needles. Although not painful, this sensation (known as paresthesia) does diminish over time in most patients. In fact, some report that the paresthesia disappears altogether after several months of use.

Because this is a surgical procedure, many patients may opt for a brief trial procedure. Leads are implanted but the generator is worn outside the body. If they do experience pain relief, the patient can opt to have the generator implanted.

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation recovery time

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation recovery time is brief. Follow your doctor’s directions for best (and fastest!) recovery. Generally, you should be able to return to your regular activities within a couple of days.

While the risk of side effects is minimal, as with all medical procedures there are a few, including:

  • Soreness at the site of implantation
  • Minor bleeding at the site of implantation
  • Infection
  • Neural injury
  • Reaction to the medication used during the procedure

As with any surgical procedure, if you experience fever, nausea, or feel otherwise unwell, contact your doctor as this could be a sign of infection.

Learn more

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation is a good option for patients who have already had back surgery for lower extremity pain or who wish to avoid back surgery. Pain relief can be profound with this out-patient, minimally-invasive procedure.

A skilled and compassionate doctor can answer all of your questions about dorsal root ganglion stimulation before your procedure.

Alliance Pain Solutions is a West Phoenix pain clinic that welcomes people from all over the Valley. We work closely with you to help find the best treatment approach for your back pain. If you think dorsal root ganglion stimulation might work for you, get in touch today!

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