Everything You Need to Know about Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) Stimulation

When pain racks your body, whether it’s localized in one area or widespread, it changes your life. You become unable to participate in the regular, everyday activities you once enjoyed. Simple tasks like tying your shoes, lifting a baby, or even walking across the room are excruciating. You may also become irritable, moody, or depressed, which can affect your relationships and your job. 

If this sounds like you, you may have complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or pain after spine and joint surgery, and you’ve already tried nearly everything to ease your symptoms. 

But if you haven’t tried dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation yet, it just might be your answer. Dr. Jay Shah and our team at Samwell Institute for Pain Management have helped many patients find much-needed relief through this effective treatment. Dr. Shah is double board-certified in pain management and as a DRG stimulation specialist. 

How DRG stimulation alleviates post-surgical pain

If you had spine surgery to decompress a nerve or stabilize a joint, but you ended up with chronic pain, this is called failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). Although many types of back surgery are highly successful, there is a risk of nerve damage in some cases. DRG has been proven to alleviate pain associated with FBSS and other procedures, such as amputations and joint surgeries, that lead to residual nerve pain. 

How DRG stimulation eases complex regional pain syndrome

Before diving into the DRG treatment, it’s important that you understand CRPS and why other treatments may have failed you. 

More often than not (about 90% of the time), CRPS occurs after an injury of some sort, like a severe burn, broken bones, strains, bruises, sprains, or even an injection. In rare cases, CRPS can occur even without a known injury, and may be caused instead by an internal injury or illness. 

In any case, your body responds abnormally to the injury or illness and causes your nervous system and sometimes your immune system to malfunction. The main symptom is chronic pain, but you may also notice that your skin changes color or temperature in the affected area, or you may experience burning, tingling, weakness, or numbness. CRPS typically affects your limbs or torso.

Treating CRPS

When chronic pain is unresponsive to conventional treatments like physical therapy and medication, you may have more success with a treatment that changes the way your body sends and receives pain messages. Dr. Shah offers two versions of this therapy.

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS)

When nothing else stops your pain, it may be best to stop your brain from registering pain signals. To do this, Dr. Shah places a small electrode into the epidural space in your spinal column, and a tiny generator or battery nearby in your upper buttock or abdomen. Using an external remote device, you can control your pain by interrupting the nerve’s electrical pain signals. This technology has been available for nearly 50 years and has improved over time, with smaller devices and more effective results.

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation 

Much like SCS, DRG stimulation interrupts the pain messages your nerves send out, but it’s even more precise. With SCS, the electrode is placed in a posterior part of the spinal cord’s epidural space. DRG electrodes have leads that are placed directly over the dorsal ganglion root, which is the nerve hub in your spine that receives sensory information from other parts of your body.

DRG stimulation, a newer technology approved by the FDA in early 2016, has been shown more effective at stopping pain in the hands and feet, as well as the chest, stomach, and groin. One study of CRPS patients showed:

Although SCS is highly successful, some patients find even better relief with DRG stimulation because it can target specific damaged nerves. 

If you’re suffering from complex regional pain syndrome or other chronic pain, book a consultation with Dr. Shah as soon as possible by calling our offices in Colonia or Livingston, New Jersey, or by using our online booking tool.

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