Chronic leg and foot pain is common among millions of Americans living with diabetes. In many cases, it can be a challenge to treat effectively.
That’s why the specialists at BayCare Clinic Pain & Rehab Medicine are offering a new treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, spinal cord stimulation for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
Drs. Christopher Howson and Ryan Clark of BayCare Clinic Pain & Rehab Medicine offer the Intellis™ and Vanta™ spinal cord stimulation implant systems. They are manufactured by Medtronic.
“These minimally-invasive devices are implanted under the skin in an area near the spine to help treat chronic leg and foot pain related to painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a debilitating and progressive neurological disorder that affects many diabetics,” Howson says.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy significantly impacts both quality of life and functional ability, including mood, social relationships and sleep. It occurs when high blood sugar (glucose) damages nerves in the body, most often in the legs and feet, leading to numbness and burning or stabbing pain. The pain can progressively worsen in patients, eventually becoming excruciating.
“The implants work by disrupting the pain signals between the brain and the spinal cord,” Clark says. “They are an important alternative therapy for managing leg and foot pain caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy for patients who haven’t found relief after using oral pain medication, creams, ointments or other treatments.”
The implants use a neurostimulator, like a pacemaker for pain, to deliver mild electrical impulses over thin wires called leads. Those electrical impulses modify pain signals before they reach the brain, where pain is sensed.
The implant systems can be beneficial for those seeking “an effective alternative to prescription opiates,” Howson says. “It presents a new hope for patients to find relief and new opportunities for pain specialists to make a difference in more people’s lives.”
Dr. Danqing Guo, a pain and rehab medicine physician with BayCare Clinic Pain & Rehab Medicine, also offers treatment for painful peripheral and diabetic neuropathy. This typically involves the use of a local anesthetic to hydrodissect damaged nerves away from the underlying fascia. This non-surgical and outpatient procedure can target pain at the source and can offer patients an alternative when medications are ineffective.