If you’re a patient that has tried all types of conservative treatment, such as physical therapy, medications, injections, nerve blocks, and more, without relief, peripheral nerve stimulation, or PNS, might offer you the pain relief you’ve been searching for.
A peripheral nerve stimulator is a device much like a spinal cord stimulator, except it targets the nerves outside of your spinal cord that connect to your spinal cord and run to your body’s limbs and organs. A PNS is a small electrical device that is implanted next to your peripheral nerves and sends electrical pulses to your nerves. This process helps alleviate pain because it changes the way pain signals are sent from your nerves to your brain. Patients with a PNS implant feel a different sensation, usually described as a mild tingling, in place of the chronic pain they are used to feeling. Patients who undergo PNS implantation are able to control the device themselves and adjust the pulse settings at any time.
Much like spinal cord stimulation, patients who are candidates for PNS undergo a trial before the permanent device is implanted. The patient can find out if the temporary device relieves their pain enough to warrant implantation of a permanent device. Candidates for PNS also undergo a psychiatric evaluation just like they do with spinal cord stimulators. If the patient passes the psychiatric evaluation and gets significant pain relief from the trial device, the permanent device implantation is the next step.
The PNS permanent device is implanted by a pain management specialist who has undergone specific training in device implantation. The permanent implantation is an outpatient procedure that only takes around one hour to complete. Sedation is used instead of general anesthesia, and the entire procedure is almost painless since the device is small enough to allow only a tiny incision to implant the PNS.
If you’re wondering if you’re a candidate for PNS, there are specific guidelines that physicians follow to determine this beyond the diagnosis of simply having chronic pain. The first and most important factor is that your physician identifies your pain as coming from a clear peripheral nerve. Beyond this, physicians always ensure that conservative treatments have been exhausted and have failed to alleviate pain. The psychiatric evaluation completion and pass is the last step before a physician will recommend a PNS trial.
PNS was invented before spinal cord stimulators back in the 1960’s, therefore, the PNS devices today are extremely efficient and modernized. PNS devices are very small in size, patient friendly, able to be removed easily, have batteries that last years, and have a very low number of complications. Patients are able to live with a PNS for their entire lives, and while the procedure is reversible, physicians don’t remove many of these since they usually experience significant relief from them.
If PNS seems like it might be something that you’d like to learn more about, schedule a consultation with one of the physicians at Pacific Pain Physicians to find out if you’re a candidate for the device.