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New treatment relieves chronic back and leg pain

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A promising new treatment provides long-term relief for people suffering with chronic back and leg pain, according to a recent study.

US researchers found that patients who received a novel high frequency form of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) therapy experienced significantly greater long-term relief for both chronic back and leg pain, when compared to a traditional low frequency form of SCS therapy.

SCS is an increasingly common therapy that delivers electric pulses to the spinal cord, through a small device implanted under the skin, for difficult to treat chronic pain in the trunk and limbs. The treatment is reversible and can be helpful for chronic pain sufferers who would otherwise rely on opioids or back surgery for relief.

According to a report by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) the new treatment, called HF10 therapy, uses high frequency pulses of 10,000 Hz, compared to traditional SCS which uses frequencies of 40 to 60 Hz.

Notably, unlike traditional SCS, HF10 therapy provides pain relief without paresthesia — an abnormal sensation commonly perceived as tingling or buzzing, which masks a patient´s perception of pain.

Researchers examined 171 patients with chronic back or leg pain, of whom 90 received HF10 therapy and 81 had traditional SCS.

At three months, 85% of subjects with back pain and 83% of those with leg pain in the HF10 therapy group experienced a 50% or greater reduction in pain. This compares to 44% of back pain and 56% of leg pain patients in the traditional SCS group. None of the patients in the HF10 therapy group experienced paresthesia.

Longer term results showed that HF10 therapy remained more effective than traditional SCS over the 12-month study period, and more patients in the HF10 group reported being “very satisfied” with their pain relief (55% versus 32%).

“This is the first long-term study to compare the safety and effectiveness of high frequency and traditional SCS therapy for back and leg pain,” said lead study author Dr. Leonardo Kapural, professor of anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and clinical director at Carolinas Pain Institute at Brookstown in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“Chronic back and leg pain have long been considered difficult to treat and current pain relief options such as opioids have limited effectiveness and commonly known side effects. Given the prevalence of chronic pain, high frequency SCS is an exciting advance for our patients.”

The findings of the research have been published in the Online First edition of Anesthesiology, the official medical journal of the ASA.