Long-term Relief for Back Pain

Researchers say heat may provide long-term relief for one of the nation’s biggest complaints, lower back pain.
The application of heat to a sore back has been known to provide temporary relief, but now pain specialists at the Cleveland Clinic deliver heat treatment with pinpoint accuracy to relieve pain for a much longer time. A technique called intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) precisely delivers heat into the discs in the back, which cause the pain. Researchers found IDET reduced pain by 75 percent.

The procedure only works for internal disc disruption, which represents 40 percent of lower back pain cases. Disc disruption happens when fibers around the discs begin to deteriorate. This usually happens as a patient ages. The tissue layer surrounding the center of the disc deteriorates as well. As degeneration occurs, water leaks from the nucleus, which irritates the spinal nerves. The patient experiences severe discomfort.

IDET applies heat internally, directly on the ring around the nucleus of the affected disk. The treatment softens and shrinks tissue, reduces irritation and destroys pain receptors. IDET lasts about 45 minutes. During this time, the patient lies on his stomach as the physician leads a needle into the affected disc using an X-ray as a guide. A wire is then moved through the needle in the ring around the nucleus. Once in place, the wire is heated gradually for about 17 minutes. Only one or two disks are treated per session.

Researchers say most patients who have received IDET experience significant pain relief for two to three months and continued to remain pain-free afterwards. The procedure restores quality of patients’ social, work, recreational and sex lives, according to researchers.

SOURCE: American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting in New Orleans, Oct. 13-Oct. 17, 2001

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