Deep Brain Stimulation May Ease Some Parkinson's Pain for Years
But new aches develop for many, researchers report
By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, March 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- People with Parkinson's disease who undergo deep brain stimulation may experience long-term pain relief, a small, new study from Korea suggests.
However, three-quarters of the patients developed new pain in muscles and joints eight years after the procedure was performed, the researchers found.
"It is potentially important that some pain types improved, but also important to understand why other types of pain did not benefit from stimulation," said Dr. Michael Okun, national medical director for the National Parkinson Foundation.
Dr. Michael Schulder, vice chairman of neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said that pain is common among these patients.
"There is little doubt that pain is one of the problems associated with Parkinson disease," he said. "But it is not completely understood whether it is related to stiffness or to abnormal mechanisms in the brain. In addition, depression and other psychological problems may have a role," Schulder said.
The question the study leaves unanswered is why patients developed new pain, Schulder said. "The original pain got better, but they got new pain, so in the end it's kind of a wash. But they might have been in more pain if they didn't have the deep brain stimulation," he noted.
Deep brain stimulation involves surgically implanting a battery pack called a neurostimulator in the brain. This sends out tiny electrical pulses to targeted areas of the brain, to block signals that cause the tremors and other motor symptoms of Parkinson's, according to the foundation.
While this and other advances have helped ease movement problems associated with the disorder, less has been done to understand the debilitating pain associated with Parkinson's, experts say.
"This study draws attention to an important and often neglected area of Parkinson disease care and research," Okun said.
Typically, pre-existing pain and its response to deep brain stimulation therapy is not measured, he explained.
Pain that starts after the implantation surgery also needs to be studied, Okun added, noting it is likely related to the disease itself and other medical conditions.