What is Neuromodulation?
Neuromodulation is a term used to describe a rapidly developing technology utilized by physicians to manipulate the human nervous system to achieve a desired outcome. The human body communicates with itself in several ways, with the nervous system being responsible for the conveying and processing of information to and from our external environment to our brain.
The nervous system transmits signals along nerve fibers. These nerve fibers transmit signals from the external environment to the brain, in a manner similar to electrical transmission. because nerves transmit signals using the same principles as electricity, we can also change/modulate/alter the firing of these nerves, with the most common example using this technology being a cardiac pacemaker.
A recent form of neuromodulation applies an electrical stimulus to the dorsal root ganglion, the bundle of cell bodies of incoming sensory nerve tissue to modulate nerve function. Applying neural stimulation to the incoming nerve fibers has yielded very promising results that have demonstrated results that have not been seen with traditional spinal cord stimulation.
Dr. Ken Chapman
What is Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation?
Dorsal root ganglion stimulation (DRG-S) is a form of neuromodulation where an electrical field is placed over the DRG and was designed to meet some of the shortcomings with SCS. The dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is a cluster of cell bodies of the nerves that travel from the extremities into the brain. This collection of cell bodies forms a bulge within the nerve just before or as it enters the spinal canal. The cell bodies can be looked at as the processing units of the nerves.
By stimulating at the DRG we are able to interrupt pain signals before they reach the spinal cord or brain, so you don't feel pain in the same way. Interrupting these pain signals at the source enables the use of low energy levels and helps eliminate unnecessary stimulation throughout the body.
DRG Stimulation has demonstrated superior pain relief when compared to traditional SCS for treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and post-surgical nerve pain in the ACCURATE randomized controlled trial.
The DRG serves as a ‘gatekeeper’ for sensations coming from the external environment, as well as from our own body to the central nervous system. The placement of the electrical field at the DRG allows us to modulate the pain messages being transmitted to the spinal cord, and also activate pain-relieving nerves to actually block pain.
In essence, we are activating the nerve fibers that our body naturally has to block pain. This can be thought of as the way a pacemaker is able to make the heart beat at a certain rhythm. But rather than activating cardiac fibers, we are activating inhibitory fibers.
The fibers that transmit pain but are also responsible for sending light touch related sensations. These fibers surround our hair follicles and use endorphins as a messenger to transmit signals. Endorphins are inhibitory and act on our body’s opioid receptors to block pain. We currently have several research projects running to try to prove this is part of the mechanism of how DRG-S works.
You can visit our website to learn more about dorsal root ganglion stimulation.
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