‘Pacemakers for the spine’ offer new depths of pain relief

For Dr Nick Christelis, visiting pain specialist at Epworth HealthCare and director and co-founder of Victoria Pain Specialists, chronic pain is more than just a problem for the individual; it’s costing the country, as well.

“Eighty per cent of people with chronic pain will not have access to the appropriate treatment and that costs the economy about $34 billion a year,” he says.

Luckily, and despite the fact that pain medicine is considered a relatively new speciality as an offshoot of anaesthetics, advancements are being made and at a rapid rate too.

One piece of technology is showing promising results with dramatic reductions in pain. Spinal cord stimulators (SCS), “pacemakers for the spine”, as Dr Christelis calls them, use electrical impulses to interrupt pain signals travelling to the brain. A patient is given control via remote to adjust pain relief as required, with the SCS implanted after a successful trial.

“Spinal cord stimulation is currently thought to be the game changer in pain medicine because when it works, it works fantastically well,” says Dr Christelis.

“We’ve had some remarkable successes. In the same sentence I’ll say it’s not treatment that’s needed for all. You need to get the right person, at the right time, with the right illness or pain.”

For those that are deemed suitable candidates, however, the results are significant.

“Patients don’t get 10 or 20 per cent reduction like they do with medications. They can get 70, 80, 90 per cent pain reduction, which changes things completely. It is a phenomenal treatment.”

For more information, visit vicpain.com.au