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3 Advances to Watch in Pain Management Technology

Chronic pain is one of the most common ailments affecting an employee post-injury. This Pain Awareness Month, we dive into new technologies advancing the world of care available to treat this condition.

September 11, 2023

Modern medicine has evolved, bringing with it drastic improvements in the quality and longevity of life. One area in which it has made leaps and bounds is in the treatment of chronic pain, which affects nearly 40% of American workers.

“Autonomy in an injured worker’s daily life is so crucial to them returning to a sense of normalcy, but chronic pain can debilitate them to the point of immobility,” said Lisa Strader, Senior Medical Manager at Safety National. “Ongoing progress in pain management technology is key in the recovery of these catastrophic injuries and has provided us an essential alternative to opioid prescriptions, which can be detrimental, depending on the individual.”

These medical technologies could advance the lives of injured workers. It is important to note that some of these technologies are not yet in the clinical application phase, but they present a promising path for the future of treatment.

1. Neuromodulation

The International Neuromodulation Society defines therapeutic neuromodulation as “the alteration of nerve activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological sites in the body.” These therapy models can help re-establish the normal function of the nervous system. One of the most common methods used is spinal cord stimulation (SCS). For the most severe patients suffering from relentless pain, SCS may provide relief. Consisting of electrodes placed between the spinal cord and vertebrae, this elective surgical procedure allows an injured worker to send electrical pulses to an area using a remote control. It can treat a complex range of injuries, including back pain, spinal cord injuries, pain after amputation and nerve-related pain.

This option is typically explored last due to its high cost and range of effectiveness. However, this treatment option is significant in terms of chronic pain, as new studies have demonstrated its ability to reduce opioid usage, increase cost-effectiveness, and provide superior care over more conservative approaches. Less common neuromodulation therapies like SI joint fusions, peripheral nerve stimulation, and dorsal root ganglion stimulation have also made incredible advances in the last decade in the procedural approach and devices available.

2. Telemedicine Technology

Telehealth has created a remarkable channel for providers to communicate with patients. Post-treatment or surgery, doctors have been able to use automated mobile applications to check in on symptoms and pain experience, which have shown improved outcomes in reducing short- and medium-term chronic pain.

In addition, telemedicine can provide increased medical access in remote locations and underserved communities. It can also expedite access to care for specific conditions such as rashes, simple sprains and strains and minor burns. Previously, it was significantly more challenging to apply to workers’ compensation claims, as providers would request to see patients in person for checkups. While that is still the preferred treatment method, the broader acceptance of telemedicine, from mental health treatment to physical therapy, has opened doors for its wider application.

3. Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Therapies

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization states that “biotechnology harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet.” Advances in this type of technology have opened the door for new pharmaceutical therapies. For example, one such type has been shown to improve medical properties, like extended release times and increased uptake. A method known as magnetofection introduces nanoparticles with magnetic properties to antibodies to target specific locations in the body for treatment.