Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Chronic pain in the back or spine can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, leading to difficulties with mobility and overall function. Medical technology advancements make it easier for people to manage chronic pain symptoms.

Spinal cord stimulation therapy offers hope to people looking to relieve their chronic pain. Below, we’ll explore spinal cord stimulation, how the procedure works, whether you’d be a good candidate and the benefits of the treatment.

What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Spinal cord stimulation is a form of spinal cord therapy that uses a medical device to treat severe pain. The device is small and delivers electrical pulses or signals through the spine until they reach the brain, altering part of the brain’s perception of pain.

Spinal cord stimulation is based on “gate control theory,” which means that the electrical pulses close the “gate” where pain signals pass, reducing pain to provide relief. Different types of devices are used in spinal cord stimulation. They can be an alternative to other forms of treatment — including opioids that have a risk of addiction.

Health care professionals use spinal cord stimulation to treat or manage numerous conditions, including:

  • Back pain
  • Post-surgical back pain
  • Nerve damage from diabetes
  • Nerve pain or malfunctioning nerves
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Post-amputation pain
  • Central pain syndrome
  • Uncontrollable chest pain

Research is being done on the different applications of spinal cord stimulation and the effectiveness of the treatment for different conditions. Since spinal cord simulation is a relatively new treatment, more research is needed to determine how many conditions this innovative medical technology can treat to improve quality of life.

Spinal Cord Stimulation Procedure

Spinal cord stimulation generally isn’t the first option for treating various conditions. Instead, this treatment is used when other treatments have been ineffective, such as steroid injections or physical therapy. Before you undergo spinal cord stimulation surgery, your doctor will before different tests to ensure you’re healthy enough for the procedure. 

If your doctor recommends spinal cord stimulation, you’ll start with a trial period. This period involves implanting temporary leads or electrodes near the targeted area, usually through a minimally invasive procedure. The leads or electrodes are connected to an external generator, and the patient is given control so they can manage the amount of stimulation. The trial process is a way to determine if spinal cord stimulation is effective enough at managing a person’s pain.

A patient can move forward with a permanent implant if the trial procedure goes well. The permanent procedure is similar to the trial, but the generator is placed under the skin, usually around the abdomen or buttocks. The leads are placed near the spinal cord and are connected to the generator. After the implants are installed, a health care professional can program and adjust the device for customized pain management.

After the trial and permanent placement procedure, you’ll likely be able to go home without staying in the hospital overnight. Your health care professional will give you instructions for your aftercare so you can facilitate a successful recovery.

man with spine pain

Who Is a Good Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Before you’re considered for spinal cord therapy, your doctor will want to ensure the treatment is right for you. Spinal cord stimulation should ideally provide significant pain relief from your pain. Your doctor will likely conduct thorough testing to ensure you’re a good candidate for the procedure. Some people that are good candidates for spinal cord stimulation include:

  • Those who haven’t experienced relief from other treatments, including medications, injections or surgeries.
  • You have pain from a failed spinal surgery.
  • You have one of the conditions that spinal cord stimulation can treat.

Your doctor will help you determine how effective spinal cord stimulation will be in helping you find relief from your pain. This treatment can be an effective way to find relief to resume the activities you once enjoyed.

Spinal Cord Stimulation Benefits

Spinal cord stimulation can help individuals manage chronic pain without relying on other treatments, such as addictive medication and physical therapy. It can help improve quality of life and has many other benefits, like:

Spinal cord simulation’s primary benefit is that it provides pain relief for chronic conditions. Many people with spinal cord injury or condition experience pain daily, so spinal cord stimulation can help those affected find relief and participate in activities they enjoy.

Spinal cord stimulation is minimally invasive or noninvasive compared to other spinal surgeries. Implantation usually only requires a small incision and doesn’t require a long hospital stay like with other spinal surgeries. You can generally resume regular activities around eight weeks after the initial surgery.

Spinal cord stimulation can be customized to accommodate your specific pain levels and patterns. For example, your health care provider can program the implanted device to deliver electrical impulses at specific frequencies, intervals or locations based on your specific condition and pain areas.

Many medications for chronic pain can be addictive, including opioids. Medications can also mask the problem. If you ever forget to take a dose or forget your medication during a trip, you could be forced to manage your pain without medical intervention. Spinal cord stimulation is an effective way to find pain relief without relying on medications.

If you deal with chronic pain, you know how hard it can be to engage in daily activities, including work. Managing your affliction through spinal cord stimulation may help you participate in activities you enjoy more often, including social events and hobbies.

Spinal cord stimulation is reversible, meaning a health care provider can remove the device if it doesn’t work for you or you experience any complications. They can also adjust the device’s settings to accommodate changes in pain patterns or severity to help you find sustainable relief.

Partner With Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) for Chronic Pain Management

Stimulation may be right for you if you live with chronic spinal pain and have exhausted other forms of treatment. The team at DISC can help you determine if spinal cord stimulation could be the solution to your symptoms.

We use cutting-edge techniques —such as spinal cord stimulation and other procedures — to help patients like you find as much pain relief as possible. Our specialists are leaders in minimally invasive spine care, and we partner with you to generate a personalized treatment plan so you can enjoy life again. Contact us today to book an appointment and get started on your path to treatment!

partner with desert institute for spine care for annular disc pain