What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is used to treat chronic reoccurring pain and pain conditions, such as sciatica, arachnoiditis, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and failed back surgery. It’s defined as a procedure that uses a low voltage spinal cord stimulator (SCS) or dorsal column stimulator to block pain in the body. The procedure involves the implantation of a small device that emits an electrical current into the spinal cord that causes a mild tingling sensation in the pain-afflicted area. This offers pain suffers a tool for better pain-management, which may decrease the need for pain medication.
How Does the Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Work?
The SCS is surgically implanted under the skin of the abdomen or the behind where electric pulses travel to the spinal cord to stimulate pain relief. In the device, a small extension wire transmits the current from a pulse generator to the lead, which is implanted under the spinal cord. A lead has 4 to 16 electrodes that deliver electrical current to spinal nerves. The device essentially intercepts the pain signal from the nerve to the brain, preventing it from reaching the brain, thus reducing pain.
How Does it Reduce Pain?
This form of treatment is not designed to eliminate pain, but to interrupt the pain signal from the nerves to the brain. The major goal of implanting an SCS device is actually to reduce pain by 50 to 70 percent. But pain reduction on a smaller scale is still considered a successful procedure, especially if it enables a patient to perform daily activities with less pain and pain medication. Pain relief will vary from patient to patient, and some may even find the pulsation uncomfortable. A trial stimulation procedure can be used to test a patient’s sensitivity before the permanent device is implanted.
What Are the Risks of Spinal Cord Stimulation?
There are risks involved with every surgical procedure. In fact, there are general potential risks that apply to every procedure, including infection, bleeding, anesthesia reactions, and blood clots. However, spinal cord stimulation has its own set of complications just like every other surgery. The risk of complications with this procedure is low, but they should be discussed with the physician before the procedure is performed.
What Happens After the Procedure?
After the procedure patients are allowed leave with after care instructions that include information on regulating stimulation by controlling the duration and strength of the stimulation. To do this, patients are given a handheld programmer that allows them to adjust device strength, turn the device on and off, and select pulse programs. Several programs are available on the programmer to aid patients in achieving the greatest pain relief possible. Patients with the implant should also keep in mind that they won’t be able to have certain procedures performed, such as an ultrasound, MRI, diathermy, or electrocautery.
To learn more about how spinal cord stimulation can drastically reduce the pain you’re experiencing give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to start you on your journey towards not letting pain get in the way of a fulfilling life.