Spinal cord stimulation (also called SCS) uses electrical impulses to relieve chronic pain of the back, arms and legs. It is believed that electrical pulses prevent pain signals from being received by the brain. SCS candidates include people who suffer from neuropathic pain and for whom conservative treatments have failed.
Spinal Cord Stimulation for Pain Management
Chronic pain is an issue that can be physically and emotionally draining for patients. Finding effective ways to deal with these issues can be difficult, with a lot of treatments not offering enough to manage the pain properly. Using spinal cord stimulation for pain management is a method of treating chronic pain that has proven to be effective for these situations.
What is a spinal cord stimulator?
A spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device that helps alleviate chronic neuropathic pain. Spinal cord stimulation has been used for decades. However, developments in spinal cord stimulators have improved results, creating an exciting future for the treatment of chronic pain. By obstructing pain sensations from reaching the brain, spinal cord stimulators provide a more effective alternative to other chronic pain treatments.
How does it work?
Spinal cord stimulation uses electrical impulses to relieve chronic pain symptoms, which are delivered by the spinal cord stimulator. The stimulator administers these mild impulses to the spinal cord, acting as a sort of gate for pain sensations attempting to reach the brain.
One of the great things about spinal cord stimulation and spinal cord stimulator implants, is that you have the ability to test the treatment temporarily. Before committing to having the device surgically implanted, you can be fitted for a temporary neurostimulator that will simulate the implanted version.
An external generator will be used to deliver the electrical impulses to leads that are placed near the area of the spine experiencing the pain. The generator itself is small and will easily fit underneath clothing.
This allows you to determine whether or not this treatment will work to alleviate your chronic pain, before making the commitment of going with an implanted device.
After you and your doctor determine that the temporary device was effective in treating your chronic pain, you may choose to proceed with the implanted neurostimulator. This device will be implanted during a 1-2 hour surgical procedure.
There are two parts of the implanted neurostimulator, the leads and the generator. The leads will be placed in the area of the spine where the pain is originating from. The generator is placed in a part of the body you and your doctor will have discussed beforehand.
Typically, after the procedure you will be able to go home that same day. However, in some cases your doctor will ask you to stay overnight for observation.
What option is right for me?
To determine which option is right for you and treating your chronic pain symptoms, you should talk directly with your doctor. You both can discuss your symptoms along with past treatments that you may have tried.
Also, all insurance companies will require a psychological assessment before going the route of neurostimulators. This is to ensure you have no mental health concerns that may interfere with the treatment’s success.
Some questions you may want to ask your doctor before determining the correct course of action are:
- Will neurostimulation work if I have pain in more than one area?
- What type of neurostimulation will work for my specific symptoms?
- Are there any restrictions after undergoing the procedure?
- What activities can I partake in and which ones should I avoid with a neurostimulator?
- What are the risks associated with the procedure?