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Dolor Crónico

¿Qué es y cómo se trata?

El dolor crónico se define como una dolencia persistente, que no desaparece o que regresa frecuentemente en intervalos de seis meses. Si bien es posible que el dolor no sea constante, es un factor predominante de la vida para muchas personas que lo padecen.

Sentir una dolencia permanente puede conducir a la depresión, ruptura de matrimonios y amistades, y al aislamiento. El tratamiento tradicional con medicamentos para el dolor puede conducir a una adicción. El dolor crónico puede interferir en cada uno de los aspectos de la vida de una persona: relaciones laborales, autoestima y bienestar emocional.

¿Cuáles son las causas?

El dolor crónico tiene muchas causas diferentes. A veces, el envejecimiento normal puede afectar los huesos y las articulaciones de forma tal que provoca un dolor crónico. Otras causas comunes son el daño nervioso y las lesiones que no se curan adecuadamente. Sin embargo, en muchos casos, la fuente de dolor crónico puede ser tan compleja que es muy difícil de diagnosticar.

Cuando una persona siente dolor, las fibras nerviosas de la médula espinal envían una señal de dolor al cerebro. Por eso, una opción para el tratamiento es la estimulación de la médula espinal, mediante la cual ésta recibe señales eléctricas que enmascaran las señales del dolor.

¿Cuáles son los síntomas?

Dolor persistente, que con el tratamiento adecuado puede desaparecer, pero luego regresa.

¿En qué consiste el tratamiento?

Según el caso y el origen del dolor, hay medicamentos de venta libre, fisioterapia y otros medicamentos potentes que se venden solo bajo receta. Pero estos conllevan el peligro doble de generar una adicción y disminuir la capacidad de actuar. Hay casos en que se recomienda una cirugía invasiva, por ejemplo en la columna vertebral, pero el tiempo de recuperación es largo.

La estimulación de la médula espinal es una terapia reversible que ha ayudado a miles de personas a encontrar alivio. Esto ocurre porque la médula espinal y el cerebro se comunican entre sí. De esta manera, el dolor puede controlarse sin medicamentos mediante la estimulación de la médula espinal, que interrumpe o «enmascara» las señales dolorosas antes de que lleguen al cerebro.

En esta terapia se colocan un pequeño generador de pulsos implantable y alambres finos (cables) en el organismo. Los cables envían pulsos diminutos a los nervios para enmascarar las señales de dolor en su viaje hacia el cerebro, produciendo una sensación de cosquilleo, lo cual reduce la sensación de dolor (lo que los doctores denominan «parestesia»).

La estimulación de la médula espinal puede ayudar a controlar el dolor en la parte inferior de la espalda y las piernas, brindando una serie de beneficios terapéuticos importantes, como: alivio importante del dolor en el largo plazo; reducción de la necesidad de tomar otros medicamentos para el dolor; ataque puntual de la zona donde siente dolor; adaptabilidad para brindar distintos niveles de terapia que se adecuen a varias actividades y momentos del día.

Si por algún motivo se decide que discontinuar el tratamiento, el médico puede quitar el sistema del organismo. Si bien la estimulación de la médula espinal no utiliza medicamentos para bloquear las señales de dolor, se puede emplear en combinación con medicamentos para aliviar el dolor si fuera necesario.

Prevención 

Es sumamente complejo hablar de cómo prevenir el dolor crónico, ya que depende de qué parte del cuerpo manifiesta la dolencia, y cuáles son sus causas. Pero podemos señalar que el dolor neuropático crónico puede tratarse con neuro-estimulación, reduciendo el dolor y mejorando la calidad de vida de los pacientes.