While the general population assumes that people with spinal cord injuries cannot feel anything below their level of injury, the truth is that many suffer from nerve pain that disrupts their daily lives. Chronic pain from nerve pain can be overwhelming, causing many to be unable to do normal everyday activities from working or seeing family and friends.
Nerve pain is often difficult to treat. Many times nerve pain is called a ‘phantom pain,’ which does not have an obvious source and is, therefore, harder to alleviate. The good news is there are dozens of options for alleviating nerve pain after a SCI, from medical procedures to products and supplements. Read on for the top 10 below.
10) Electrical Stimulation Shorts
Functional electrical stimulation also is known as FES has been used by people spinal cord injuries for years to improve muscle density, but it is now being used to alleviate nerve pain by people within a new trend called wearable therapy, ie, called electrical stimulation shorts. Made by Axiobionics, you can wear these shorts and turn on the electrical stimulation for pain relief.
9) Spinal Cord Stimulator
For decades, spinal cord stimulation has been used to help with chronic pain five people with spinal cord injuries. It works by masking the pain signals before they reach the brain. This is done via a small device that is implanted via surgery and delivers electrical pulses to the spinal cord. For many people this can relieve up to 50% of nerve pain, eliminating the need for pain medication.
8) Radio-frequency Spinal Ablation
Usually reserved for people with severe nerve pain, radiofrequency spinal ablation relieves nerve pain by burning the nerves in the back responsible for sending the pain signals using radio waves to kill the nerves. It is a minimally invasive procedure that many SCI folks with chronic pain have undergone with success.
7) Intercostal Nerve Block
A temporary pain relief procedure and intercostal nerve block is an injection of medication into the nerves under each rib. If these nerves become inflamed, they can cause severe pain. These blocks are frequently targeted in people with chronic pain as a way to tone down their overall pain in their body. This pain relief from this procedure focuses on the chest and abdomen area.
Also known as Palmitoylethanolamide, this is a new drug being taken for chronic nerve pain and is derived from a fatty acid amide found in eggs and milk.
A popular supplement is taken to fight depression and insomnia, melatonin has also been reported to help with nerve pain when taken as a supplement.
4) Nerve Root Injections
For people with chronic pain in their arms or legs, a nerve root block can help. This is an injection of a local anesthetic into the nerve where it exits the spinal column, and it provides temporary relief. Many rehabilitation facilities offer nerve root blocks, but they only last two weeks.
3) Medical Cannabis
CBD and THC have both been reported to help with chronic pain in people with spinal cord injuries. For people with severe chronic pain however, this may not be a strong enough option.
Sometimes used to treat restless leg syndrome, Requip is used to treat stiffness and muscle spasms, which can contribute to nerve pain. It is non-ergoline dopamine.
Approved by the FDA, Lyrica is frequently used by people with spinal cord injuries to treat nerve pain. This is one of the few prescriptions approved by the FDA specifically for nerve pain, although Lyrica is used to treat pain after shingles and diabetic nerve pain too. Doctors believe it works by calming overactive nerves.
If none of the above recommendations help with your nerve pain, we also suggest looking into Eastern medicine practices such as acupuncture, yoga, and meditation.
Written by Spinal Cord TeamSpinalCord.com has been created as a resource for patients of spinal cord injuries and their families. Find everything you need to learn more about your injury, locate a doctor or treatment center, or discover financial relief to support you through this difficult time.
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