Dorsal Root Ganglion Treatment Performed by Compassionate Pain Doctors in Glendale, Chandler, Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona

Dorsal Root Ganglion stimulation is an exciting new treatment for patients suffering from a very debilitating condition.

The condition goes by two names: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS) and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), but no matter what you call it, the condition can be difficult to manage. Finding a solution to the pain can seem like a never ending hunt for the proverbial needle in a haystack, but adding the complication of suffering physically while doing the task.

That’s why there are doctors across the world working on treatments for these conditions. Recently, a new option has come onto the market, and it’s vetted by the people at St. Jude Medical as part of the largest study ever done for people with CRPS.  So what is this amazing solution and how do you get your hands on it? Well before we tell you, let’s take a moment to find out how this device works in the first place.

RSD and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndromeLet’s say you were out in your backyard one day, moving your favorite lawn chair across the yard — you know, the one with the vinyl straps that folds up — when it slips out of your grip, injuring your foot in the process. You think it’s fine at first, but eventually, you start to notice continuous, intense pain that seems a bit crazy compared to the event itself. Maybe the skin starts to change color slightly, or it gets warmer or cooler randomly. After surgery, or traction, and similar situations, can be the way that CPRS enters your life, and if it does, it can be difficult to manage.

Why does this happen? Well, it’s complicated (hence the “complex” part of CRPS), and as of right now, doctors can only theorize what’s actually going on. But what we do know is that symptoms usually happen in the upper or lower extremities, and that they cause continuous, intense pain that doesn’t match with the severity of the injury. There are a number of symptoms, including swelling, a severe burning pain, hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to painful stimuli), sweating and more. What’s even worse is that the symptoms can spread. Say you injured your right hand causing the condition to take hold, it could then go into your arm and even into the opposite arm or leg. Needless to say, it’s not a good time for everyone involved.

How do you know if you have it? Well there is no blood test or sample to take, and although there are tests to rule out other problems that have similar symptoms (rheumatologic conditions, for example), CRPS isn’t that fortunate. Therefore, the only way you can be diagnosed with the condition is to see your doctor and explain to them your symptoms. Because so much is unknown about the cause of CRPS, your options for pain relief will be limited. Typically, you’ll hear about nerve blocks and medications.

Normally, this is where we would talk about this revolutionary new treatment option, but we’re still not quite there yet. First, we have to take a ride on the body’s freeway, or the DRG.

What is Dorsal Root Ganglion?


Let’s take a moment to get into the nuts and bolts of what exactly the DRG is an what it does. DRG stands for Dorsal Root Ganglion, and it’s a nerve structure that’s inside of your spine that has your primary sensory neurons. It relays painful and non-painful information from your body to the central nervous system. Simple, right?

Probably not, so let’s think about it another way. Let’s say that your Dorsal Root Ganglion is a highway that connects your central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to the rest of your body. Each car on the highway carries a signal that alerts the central nervous system about what’s good and bad. If you stubbed your toe (that darned lawn chair, again), your body would send a car down the highway up to your brain to tell it that you’re now feeling pain, so maybe hopping around on one foot while holding the affected toe is the right response — or possibly something entirely different, but you see where we’re going here. Good or bad, all of the signals in the body run through the Dorsal Root Ganglion.

Now what does all this have to do with chronic pain? Let’s dig back into this a bit. Each car in our metaphorical highway has to enter the road in one way or another, right? We call them onramps in the real world, and they’re just like that with the DRG. Imagine there’s an onramp for your legs, toes, knees, stomach, and all the body parts that you have.

Let’s say that you suffer from chronic pain. That would mean that lots of cars would be shooting up the highway up to your brain, right? Well if it’s happening frequently enough, those cars would come quicker and quicker, until the onramp would get bogged down and clogged up. But what if there was a way to slow down or eliminate traffic on just that onramp, specifically targeting the area that is causing pain? That would be pretty sweet, right?

And now, finally, we’re going to get into the treatment of it all.

Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation

If you’re in pain, then you might have heard of Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) before, and although what we’re about to get into is similar, it’s not exactly the same, but bear with us.

The concept behind SCS is simple: block pain perception from going up the spinal cord to the central nervous system by implanting a device in the epidural space around the cord. This device puts out low-level electrical impulses that basically change the brain’s ability to perceive that pain, and thus relieve you of the symptoms.

Think about it this way: Have you ever gotten onto a freeway where they have two lanes on the onramp that merge into one, but just before they do, there’s a stoplight that regulates the traffic flow? Basically, one light is green while the other is red, spacing out the cars accordingly, and lessening the risks of accidents and the like. In our analogy, the DRG is the highway, and the cars are signals being sent to the brain, right? Well if these cars represent pain, then an SCS is essentially one of those stoplights, except it interferes with the way the cars work. Those cars are still transmitting the signal, but since there’s other things at work, the pain isn’t felt.

The problem with SCS — and it’s not a huge one, because it still is a very good solution for many people — is that it throws out a bit of a wide net. Yes, it can solve many pain problems, and that’s good. But it’s not so specific that it can locate the exact area you want to target. Meaning, if your toe is busted and causes you CRPS, then an SCS can help with pain there, but it’s also targeting your leg. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it depends on the scenario.

In addition, sometimes SCS becomes ineffective if you shift your body around into various positions, because the device isn’t contacting the spine the way it should be. Obviously this can be a problem because you don’t want to get up from that lawn chair and in the process feel a painful sensation just because you shifted your weight.

Here’s how Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation is different. Doctors often refer to it as being “steerable,” which rolls into our now overused highway metaphor nicely. But let’s take it one step further. Freeways can merge together, right? And if you think about it, there’s a nerve bundle — or freeway — that runs down each of your legs, and there are lots of nerve receptors — or onramps — that branch off there. Everything runs through the DRG, but there’ are lots of options on how to get there’s a clear path on how to get to the central nervous system. With a typical SCS, you might help out with the problem where the two freeways merge, but with DRG Stimulation, you can target the onramps themselves. And that is fantastic.

Why? Some areas can’t be reached with typical SCS options, where they can be with DRG Stimulation. Want to shift around in that lawn chair? No sweat, the Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulator will handle it just fine, and you’ll experience minimal problems in the process. Oh, and then there’s the significant improvement in the quality of your life, and really, there’s no way to weigh how awesome that can be.

Now let’s talk about the cool name of the product.

Axium™ Neurostimulator System

That’s right, St. Jude has developed the Axium™ Neurostimulator System, and it’s the DRG Stimulator that we’ve been talking about thus far. It’s the only FDA-approved option out on the market today, and it’s been proven in the ACCURATE study. Chances are good that you’ve never heard of that particular trial (unless you’re a doctor), but it’s the largest randomized neurostimulation clinical trial out there, and it compares SCS with Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation, specifically to treat CRPS. That means they went mano-a-mano with each other and DRG won out — and that’s saying something, because SCS is a fantastic option for many people. Plus, it’s even a better option for people that weren’t great candidates for conventional SCS.

Contact Us Today About Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation

Arizona Pain now offers the St. Jude Medical Axium™ Neurostimulator System, and if you suffer from CRPS/RSD, this might be a great option for you. So how do you clean up your own personal highway and get yourself out of pain? Easy. Contact us today and one of our associates will contact you about setting up an appointment at one of our seven clinics located across the Valley. Once you sort things out, you’ll see a doctor who will explain your options to you, and show you more about the device itself.

If you’re experiencing chronic pain, you know that it can be completely debilitating. If there was a solution out there that could take away that pain today, and put you back on the right road to recovery, wouldn’t you want to take it? Go ahead and give us a call today. It’s the first step to a better you.

Dr. Tory McJunkin and Dr. Jonathan Carlson Talk about Dorsal Root Ganglion Therapy