What are Spinal Cord Stimulators?

Living with chronic pain can make everyday seem like a struggle. You are unable to enjoy the activities you once loved, and can feel as though you are missing out on life. There is no need to suffer though, as spinal cord stimulation might be able to reduce your pain. If you have chronic back or neck pain, speak to a physician at Coastal Orthopedics to find out how spinal cord stimulation can help you regain control of your pain and your life.

What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

A Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) is a device implanted under the skin by a physician near the spinal column. It sends electrical currents to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord, which relieve chronic pain. These currents interrupt the pain signals being sent to your brain, and changing the pain you feel into a mild tingle.

A SCS is only considered after a patient has exhausted all other options of managing their pain. It does not eliminate pain all together, but most patients report a 50% to 70% decrease in pain. However, some do not enjoy the tingling sensation created by the SCS. This is why a trial period is conducted before the device is permanently implanted.

Who Benefits From It?

Just like all treatments, SCS is not right for everyone. Your physician will assess your overall physical condition before considering implanting a SCS. Generally speaking, a qualified candidate for SCS treatment meets the following criteria:

  • Suffer from chronic back, neck, leg or arm pain
  • Have tried alternative surgical treatments, but pain still remains
  • Are heavily dependent on pain medication
  • Pain is not caused by a psychiatric condition, such as depression

What is the Procedure Like?

If your physician believes that a SCS is the right treatment for your pain, there are two parts to your surgical procedure.

1. Trail Stimulation: SCS is not the right treatment for everyone, which is why you will undergo a trial stimulation to determine if SCS can help with your pain. Your physician will put you under local anesthesia and numb the area of incision. Mild sedation may be performed to assist in procedure. They will then insert a hollow needle into the epidural space between the bony vertebra and the spinal cord. Through the needle, your physician will gently feed electrical wiring to numb the pain.

During this procedure, you will be awake and able to give feedback to the physician. You will be able to tell them where to place the wiring according to what best numbs your pain. Following the procedure, you will go home for a week and to test out your new device. After this trial week, you and your doctor will decide if SCS is in fact the right way to manage your pain. If you decide it is, then you will have another procedure to permanently install the device.

2. Permanent Implantation: The trial is generally considered successful if pain is reduced by 50% or more. You will then schedule surgery to have the SCS device permanently inserted. During the surgery, your physician will place the electrodes in the epidural space and the pulse generator in the flank areas. The pulse generator is the device that will control the frequency and amount of electrical waves being sent out. You will be able to control this from a remote control device.

For many suffering from chronic pain, or those who do not wish to take pain medication every day, a spinal cord stimulator might be the right choice. If nothing has worked to control your pain, contact the professionals at Coastal Orthopedics to find out if a SCS can improve your quality of life.