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Home » Opioid Awareness » The FDA-Approved Therapy That’s Helping Patients Manage Chronic Pain Without Opioids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 50 million U.S. adults live with chronic pain (pain lasting at least 6 months). Drug therapy has come under scrutiny as a result of the opioid epidemic. Agencies including the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Pain Management Best Practices Task Force are focusing on advancing best practices for pain management. Drug-free spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is emerging as the future of pain therapy in many patients.

“There is a tremendous need for effective drug-free pain management options, and we are very excited about the role of spinal cord stimulation in providing relief for many patients who suffer from chronic pain,” says Rafael Carbunaru, Ph.D., vice president of neuromodulation research and development at Boston Scientific.

Pain is felt when nerves send signals through the spinal cord to the brain. Spinal cord stimulators interrupt these signals with mild electrical pulses. This drug-free, FDA-approved pain management therapy has been around for 50 years, and recent advances give more options to meet each patient’s unique needs.

“We believe in providing capable and flexible systems that allow physicians to personalize the therapy for each patient — today and in the future,” says Carbunaru. “Our newest device, the Spectra WaveWriter™ SCS system provides multiple therapy options, which gives physicians a better chance of finding the optimal form of pain relief for individual patients.”

Moreover, “the patient can trial this therapy for a few days to determine if it works for them, before proceeding as a long-term therapy,” he says. Over 90 percent of patients who use Boston Scientific products report a successful trial experience.

Patient-centered approach

Since pain management can be complex and varies from person to person, it’s important for patients to work with their doctor to personalize a plan.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach when treating and managing patients with painful conditions. Spinal cord stimulation is definitely one of the major treatment modalities and has made great strides recently,” says Dr. Vanila Singh, M.D., chair of the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force, a federal advisory committee established by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016.

She encourages patients to keep a journal of symptoms, goals, and treatment progress: “You are your most important advocate.”

Boston Scientific just announced mySCS™, an app to maximize a patient’s chance for successful SCS trial and progression to the implant and therapy. It allows for real-time support, simple progress tracking during the SCS trial, and provides a report that patients can share with their physicians.

Life with SCS

Mike Webb, 62, got a spinal cord stimulator to help manage his chronic back pain. The Austin, Texas drummer fell nearly a decade ago and injured two vertebrae. His doctor had prescribed Tramadol, an opioid, which Webb took up to three times a day.

After his doctor recommended he try this alternative therapy, Webb received a trial stimulator. He said he immediately felt relief.

“It was just outstanding,” he says. “I was totally off of pain medicines. I was out and about the next day. It was wonderful.”

A few months later, Webb, a grandfather and great-grandfather, had the surgical SCS implant. He can adjust the setting for his back pain with a controller and he no longer takes any pain pills. He says one of his treatment options feels like a massage.

While the experience for each patient is different, “this has been kind of a miracle for me,” he says. “It makes the back pain, the nerve pain, manageable.”

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Safety information for the Spectra WaveWriter SCS System™ is available at Ask your doctor if SCS is right for you.

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