What is Spinal Cord Stimulation – and Can it Help You?

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) was first approved by the FDA back in 1989. Today, it has become a standards treatment for chronic pain conditions in the back and limbs. It is an option for patients who have not found pain relief from other pain management methods. SCS patients often report at least 50 to 70 percent drop in overall pain and increased ability to do regular activities after treatment. Some patients even decrease or stop pain medications after SCS treatment.

SCS works through the application of electrical currents to the source of the chronic pain creating pleasant sensations that block the brains ability to sense the pain. The electrical current is applied at the source of the chronic pain. There are two types of simulation methods used including:

Spinal cord stimulation using electrical leads inserted through a needle in the back near the spinal columns.

Peripheral nerve field stimulation on the other hand involves inserting the electrical leads under the skin in areas near the nerves involved in the pain signal.

In both approaches, the electric current generator can be controlled to adjust the area or intensity of electrical stimulation. The program can also be turned off and on, whatever changes necessary to create optimal relief from the pain. The initial programming for SCS is done in the doctor’s office and patience can learn how to adjust the stimulation depending on individual pain levels.

It is crucial to know that spinal cord stimulation is not for everyone with only about 50% of patients experiencing meaningful pain relief. The procedure also does not address the source of the pain. SCS is only designed to interrupt the pain signals sent to the brain. The underlying anatomical problems remain uncorrected. This makes SCS treatment a great complementary to other treatment processes. Treatments to address the source of the pain should be incorporated as well.

Some of the advantages of spinal cord stimulation and peripheral nerve field stimulation for chronic pain include:

Trial tests can be carried out on a patients to determine whether they are responsive before inserting permanent implants.

Spinal cord stimulation rarely has any side effects. It is also reversible, if it does not work for you, the implants can be removed.

The implant insertion procedure is minimally evasive. The minor surgical procedure can be done for outpatients. Since the leads are inserted under the skin, you can travel anywhere and do all kinds of recreational activities such as swimming.

Using SCS and PNFS can help you get off the use of medication to manage pain.

Once the implants have been inserted, the neurostimulator technology allows you the control to adjust the stimulation level in case the location and severity of the pain changes.

The design of the equipment has greatly improved to make sure it lasts longer, has rechargeable batteries and the systems can be placed in the best position for optimal and effective pan relief.