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Arachnoiditis and Pain Management

A pain disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, a membrane that surrounds and protects the nerves of the spinal cord is known as arachnoiditis. It is characterised by severe pain with a stinging and burning sensation along with neurological problems.

Symptoms of arachnoiditis

There seems to be no consistent symptoms, but many people suffer from pain in the lower back and legs. The main symptom is pain but the disease many lead to other symptoms also like tingling, numbness or weakness in the legs.

There may be sensations like insects crawling on the skin or water tickling down the body. It many also cause shooting pain like an electric shock, muscle cramps, spasms, bladder, bowel and sexual problems.

As the disease progresses the symptoms become severe and even remain permanent. The disease may even make people unable to work due to significant disability and constant pain.

Causes of arachnoiditis

When the spinal nerves stick to one another and malfunction due to scar tissue formation as a result of inflammation then it causes arachnoiditis.

The arachnoid can get inflamed due to some sort of irritation due to direct injury to the spine, some chemicals used in radiography, some steroid medications, infections like fungal meningitis, tuberculosis which affect the spine and chronic compression of spinal nerves due to degenerative disease or narrowing of spinal column.

It can also be a result of an invasive surgery of the spinal column.

Diagnosis for arachnoiditis

Tests such as CAT scan or MRI is used for diagnosis. Another test called electromyogram (EMG) can assess the severity of the damage to the nerve roots. Myelograms with radiographic contrast are currently used for pinpointing the disease.

What are the available treatments?

Arachnoiditis is not exactly curable. The treatment options include management of pain like in other chronic pain conditions. This helps in relieving the pain and improving symptoms that impair the daily activities. Doctors recommend a mix of pain management techniques, physiotherapy, exercise and psychotherapy. Surgery outcomes are poor for arachnoiditis and at best provide only temporary relief. Other options are sterioid injections and electrical stimulation.

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