More than a hundred million Americans live with chronic pain, which can seriously impact personal and professional quality of life. For back pain patients looking to minimize their dependence on pain medications, the answer may be electrical brain stimulation (EBS). New research read by leading board-certified spine surgeons in Los Angeles suggests that stimulating a certain area of the brain may block pain signals sent to the spinal cord.
Targeting the Brain’s Reward Center
The Texas study focused exclusively on the use of a wireless electrical device that directly stimulates the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the midbrain. This area of the brain houses a large concentration of dopamine and serotonin neurons. These chemicals can help the body naturally deal with the emotional aspects of pain. The process also encourages the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward center, which may help manage long-term pain.
Reduced Sensitivity to Pain
Researchers were able to determine a link between the part of the brain associated with the production of certain biologically soothing neurons and the reduction of pain. The purpose of EBS is to trigger the release of these neurons. In terms of how back pain is felt, this means pain signals sent from the spine would either be interpreted differently or blocked altogether.
Hope for Patients with Nerve-Related Pain
EBS may be good news for patients with back pain due to pressure on nerves, which is the source of many forms of back pain, with the sciatic nerve being a prime example of a nerve that’s often affected. Conditions like spinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal, often result in nerve compression, with pain sometimes radiating to lower or upper extremities, depending on where the compression occurs.
Electrical brain stimulation, a technique first pioneered in the 1800s, has been researched as a possible treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease and some forms of epilepsy. Testing of EBS for the treatment of back pain is still in the laboratory phase. With early results encouraging, further testing seems likely. Researchers hope that the new method may lessen the dependency on medications that sometimes have unintended side effects.
Interested in learning more about treatments for back pain? Reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae, an experienced Los Angeles spine surgeon, and his team of diagnosticians and spine specialists at The Spine Institute Center. Call (310) 828-7757 today and request an in-person consultation. Your path to a pain-free life begins here.