Surviving cancer is a spectacular feat. However, for many cancer survivors, anywhere between 20- 50%, there’s another battle that starts after surviving cancer: living with chronic pain.
Dr. Aashish Jay Kumar, our expert at Spine & Pain Specialists of the Carolinas, located in Charlotte, North Carolina, specializes in managing cancer pain with the help of neuromodulation. It’s an advanced technology that uses electrical pulses to interfere with pain signals, eliminating the need for potentially addictive pain medications.
Let’s say you burn your finger while touching a hot pot. That causes tissue damage that’s then recorded by microscopic pain receptors in your skin. These receptors are linked by nerve fibers to your spinal cord, which communicate with the help of electrical impulses.
Once the message is sent to the spinal cord, it's then sorted in the brain, causing a physical sensation, a cognitive reaction, and an emotional response. That is why pain isn't just about the sensation but also how we think about it and how we emotionally react to it.
Neuromodulation addresses pain by interfering with the electrical signals received by the brain, and it’s particularly useful for nerve pain caused by radiation and chemotherapy.
Depending on your needs, there are three types of neuromodulation approaches for chronic pain: spinal cord stimulation, dorsal root ganglion stimulation, and peripheral nerve stimulation. For cancer-related pain, you’ll most likely be recommended spinal cord stimulation, as this type of stimulation is used for pain caused by damaged nerves.
Studies suggest that six months after treatment, neuromodulation can lead to a 51% reduction in chronic pain.
In addition to neuromodulation, Dr. Kumar can deliver pain medication straight into the spinal fluid, which allows for a much lower dosage and fewer side effects.
Aside from having harmful emotional effects, chronic pain also triggers the production of adrenaline. That hormone reduces blood flow to the hands and legs and can cause hypertension. Adrenaline can also impair your sleep, reduce your appetite, and weaken your immune system.
Unfortunately, people who experience lowered immunity are more likely to experience a cancer recurrence.
Medications for cancer pain are potent. However, most contain opiates — highly addictive substances that can also cause constipation, nausea, and confusion. Neuromodulation offers a safe alternative.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain due to cancer, don't hesitate to contact us to schedule an appointment. Dr. Kumar will review your medical history, perform a physical examination, and create a personalized treatment plan for your symptoms.