Pain Management

February 10, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Spinal Cord Stimulation


Spinal cord stimulation offers an alternative treatment for chronic back pain that does not respond to pain medication, physical therapy and other conventional forms of treatment.

Chronic back pain caused by previous injuries, wear and tear, or an underlying medical condition is typically managed with nonsurgical forms of treatment. These treatments can vary from rest, limited activity, stretches and over-the-counter pain medication. But when these types of treatments do not provide relief, a spinal cord stimulator designed to relieve ongoing pain might help.

How Is It Done?
Spinal cord stimulation involves using electric currents to stop pain signals from the spine from reaching your brain. This is done by first implanting a lead near the spine, which delivers mild electrical pulses to the brain. This procedure usually takes about an hour and is done with local anesthesia. If it is successful, you can expect to have permanent leads implanted in your spine and a permanent generator implanted in your abdomen, buttocks or chest. Generators can also be housed outside of the body.

The leads and generator are connected by a wire, and you are able to control the electrical current produced by the generator with a separate controller. This way, the relief that you experience can be customized based on your personal back pain levels. The implanted generator used in a spinal cord stimulator has similarities to a cardiac pacemaker, so it is sometimes referred to as the “pacemaker for pain.” If you have the permanent generator implanted, this procedure typically takes one or two hours and is usually done with general anesthesia.

Why Is It Done?
Some doctors recommend this form of treatment for those who have chronic back pain that does not go away with conventional treatment, or pain that becomes more severe over time. Other reasons to consider spinal cord stimulation include nerve pain in your arms or legs, inflammation in the lining of your spinal cord and brain, or complex regional pain syndrome. When nonsurgical or surgical treatments have not been successful, using a spinal cord stimulator is often considered a suitable alternative.

Is It Safe?
The procedure to implant a spinal cord stimulator device is a minimally invasive one that carries fewer risks than traditional surgery. It only requires the use of small incisions rather than larger or longer ones, which helps reduce healing time and minimizes the risk of infection, excess bleeding and other complications.

This form of treatment is generally safe, although there are certain risks associated with it. These risks are similar to the risks associated with any surgical procedure such as infection, pain at the surgical site, and nerve damage. There is also a risk that the stimulator will not work correctly after it has been implanted or that the generator or the leads might become damaged.

Is It Effective?
Spinal cord stimulation has been shown to be effective at reducing chronic back pain. In fact, many patients who have had the procedure have reported experiencing a 50 percent reduction in chronic pain. It is important to keep in mind that spinal cord stimulation does not treat the underlying cause of pain; instead, it is used to relieve discomfort.

This form of treatment offers other advantages, such as providing adjustable pain relief, reducing the use of prescription pain medications, offering targeted pain relief and having minimal side effects. It is also considered more cost-effective than other forms of treatment. Keep in mind that the permanent generator requires batteries in order to work properly. These batteries can last up to five years before needing to be replaced, and rechargeable batteries are also available.

If you are dealing with chronic back pain and you have not found relief, a spinal cord stimulator could be a suitable option for you. When you are ready to explore treatment options customized to you, please contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 . We offer spinal surgery, interventional pain management, and other types of back pain treatment.

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