What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is a treatment for chronic pain that utilizes a small medical device (a spinal cord stimulator) that emits a small electric current to your spinal cord. Spinal cord stimulation is part of the neurostimulation category of treatment options and has been rising in popularity as more individuals experience neuropathic pain, and healthcare providers are trying to move away from chronic opioid therapy for treating chronic neuropathic pain.
Implantable Pulse Generator (IPG)
What Conditions Does Spinal Stimulation Help Manage?
Spinal cord stimulation is used to treat chronic pain, but the causes of this pain can vary. Some of the most common reasons someone may opt for spinal cord stimulation are:
- Back pain
- Continued pain after back surgery, for example, pain after laminectomy surgery
- Diabetes-related nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Neuropathic pain (pain due to malfunctions in your nerves)
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
How Does Spinal Cord Stimulation Work?
As mentioned above, spinal cord stimulation utilizes a small device that sends a mild electrical current to your spinal cord. The purpose of this is to interrupt the pain signal that is going to your brain from the nerves in your spine.
The device consists of thin wires and a small battery pack (similar to a pacemaker). The thin wires are placed between the spinal cord and the vertebrae, and the generator is placed under the skin, typically near the buttocks. This device is controlled by a remote that patients can use to send electric pulses when feeling pain.
The spinal cord stimulation procedure has two parts: the trial and implantation surgery. The trial typically lasts a few days or weeks and ensures that the device will work properly when implanted.
Not everyone gets relief with these devices, and healthcare professionals want to ensure that you get relief before permanently placing the device under your skin. The trial is considered successful if the patient experiences at least a 50% reduction in pain. If the trial is successful, the implantation surgery is typically performed a week or two after the trial.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Because spinal cord stimulation uses a permanently-implanted device in the body, it is typically only offered when other treatments — such as physical therapy and corticosteroid injections — do not work.
Before getting the procedure, you will likely need to meet with several healthcare providers, such as neurologists, pain specialists, neurosurgeons, psychologists, and anesthesiologists. Each of these professionals provides a vital role in ensuring that a spinal cord stimulation device is the right treatment option for your particular situation.
In other words, the best candidates for spinal cord stimulation are those who have already undergone other treatment methods that did not work.
How Carolina’s Pain Center Can Help
At Carolina’s Pain Center, our pain specialists focus on ensuring that each patient finds the right solution for their pain. We encourage patients to take control of their own pain management and form partnerships with their doctors.
This helps empower our patients to understand where their pain comes from and how different treatment options can help them. So, if you are struggling with chronic back pain and other treatment options have not worked, make an appointment today with Carolina’s Pain Center to see if spinal cord stimulation is right for you.