The treatment for chronic back pain and neck pain often begins with conservative treatments, such as medications, avoiding activities that stress your spine, and physical therapy. But, chronic spine pain is notorious for persisting despite the usual conservative care.
That’s when you need to see Ajay Kumar, MD, DABPM, at New Jersey Advanced Pain Management Center. Dr. Kumar offers the next level of pain medicine: minimally invasive treatments.
As a specialist in interventional pain management and minimally invasive spine procedures, Dr. Kumar has helped many patients overcome their pain, regain optimal function, and restore their quality of life.
Here’s what you need to know about minimally invasive treatments, which may help you avoid open surgery.
Minimally invasive interventional treatments
Interventional treatments are minimally invasive procedures that help many patients avoid surgery. They do an exceptional job of relieving pain, because they target the precise nerves sending the pain messages.
These are just three examples of the interventional pain treatments we frequently perform:
Epidural steroid injections
Using real-time imaging to see your spine, we guide a needle into the epidural space surrounding your spine and place the needle next to the inflamed nerves. Then we inject steroids, which ease your pain by reducing inflammation.
Spinal cord stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation sends mild electrical pulses into the spinal nerves that are carrying the pain signals to your brain. The electrical pulses interfere with the signals, so your brain doesn’t get the messages and you get pain relief.
This treatment involves implanting a small pulse generator under your skin and guiding lead wires through the epidural space. Then we position the leads next to the targeted nerves and program the generator to send pulses through the leads.
Since spinal cord stimulation can target any spinal nerve — and all pain signals from your body go through the spinal cord to reach your brain — this treatment can relieve back, neck, arm, and leg pain, as well as other pain conditions, such as complex regional pain syndrome.
Radiofrequency ablation relieves pain using radiofrequency energy to wound a specific nerve. The wound stops the nerve from transmitting pain signals. We use a needle-like device to reach the nerve, then we send a controlled burst of energy through the needle to the nerve.
We can use this treatment on many nerves throughout the body. As a result, radiofrequency ablation offers long-lasting relief from many causes of pain, such as knee pain due to arthritis.
Peripheral nerve stimulator implantation
A peripheral nerve stimulator treats chronic extremity pain by sending mild electrical pulses into specific peripheral nerves, which are nerves that are located outside of the brain and spinal cord. The pulses interrupt the pain signals, thereby reducing or eliminating the pain.
We use minimally invasive techniques and real-time imaging, such as ultrasound and fluoro-guidance, to insert very thin wires along the peripheral nerve that is sending the pain signals. Then we implant a small generator under your skin that sends the electrical pulses through the wires and into the nerve.
Peripheral nerve stimulation can treat chronic knee, pelvic, shoulder, foot, and ankle pain that doesn’t improve with standard medical care. It can also help patients who have ongoing pain after surgery.
Minimally invasive spine surgery
Sometimes, the best — or only — way to get rid of back and neck pain is with surgery to repair the underlying condition. Most spine problems that once required open surgery can now be done with minimally invasive techniques.
Open surgery can cause extensive trauma beyond the actual spine surgery. The trauma comes from cutting a long incision and pulling back the muscles and tissues to access your spine.
By comparison, minimally invasive surgery uses a small incision and, in most cases, we don’t need to cut any of the muscles. We gently guide a tube-like instrument between the muscle fibers, then we insert specialized instruments through the tube to perform the surgery.
Depending on your case, we may recommend one of the following types of minimally invasive spine surgery:
If you have a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease, we may recommend an endoscopic discectomy to remove the disc. During endoscopic surgery, we make a small incision in your back and gently guide a tubular retractor between the muscle fibers.
The retractor creates a small opening without cutting the muscles. Then we insert a narrow endoscope through the opening and use specialized instruments to remove the disc.
Since a minimally invasive endoscopic discectomy spares the muscles, this can greatly reduce your pain and downtime.
The Vertiflex™ procedure relieves back and leg pain caused by spinal stenosis. During this minimally invasive procedure, we insert a small implant between two vertebrae. The implant creates space between the bones, which takes pressure off of the pinched nerves. The procedure generally requires little to no downtime.
If you need relief from back or neck pain, we can help. Dr. Kumar can give you a thorough examination and go over your treatment options. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with New Jersey Advanced Pain Management Center today.