Saturday, July 13

What Spinal Implants and Spider Venom Mean for Back Pain Sufferers

Between medical conditions, sedentary jobs, and habits that more often include a Netflix marathon than a trip to the gym, back pain is one of the most commonly reported health problems in the United States. In fact, over 26 million Americans aged 20 to 64 say they live with back pain on a frequent basis. Now, doctors and researchers are finding new ways to treat back pain — including a little known device and spider venom.

A surgeon at the Toronto Western Hospital, Dr. Mohammed Shamji, says that an underused device could be the key to preventing and treating chronic back pain. The device, a neurostimulator, blocks pain signals as they’re traveling to receptors in the brain.

“We have other clinicians who are not necessarily aware that the technology could provide benefit for their patients,” Dr. Shamji told CTV News.

Patient Joanna Chow says that she suffered from such severe back pain that she was unable to walk. With the neurostimulator, she is able to block her own pain using the device and is able to be active.

The implant wraps around a patient’s spinal cord and is controlled by a touchpad. The device transmits an electrical signal to the brain, which cancels pain signals sent by the spine.

Australian researchers from the University of Queensland are touting a treatment that’s a little more strange: spider venom.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the researchers’ findings were published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, and could offer a new alternative to common chronic pain medications — which can often become addictive.

Spiders use venom to paralyze their prey, but the researchers have found a peptide — a building block of proteins — that actually has the potential to become a painkilling drug due to its potency, stability, and structure.

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