A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is a device that is surgically placed under your skin and sends a mild electric current to your spinal cord. The device, when fitted, delivers electronic pulses to electrodes that are placed over the spinal cord. Thin wires carry the pulse current from the device to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord.
The device is a small battery pack much like a pacemaker and is placed under the skin near the abdomen or buttocks. The electrodes are placed between the spinal cord and the vertebrae – the epidural space.
When using the spinal cord stimulator, the electrical pulses modify or mask the pain signals being sent to your brain, meaning the pain is reduced or modified to a tingling feeling – paresthesia instead of pain. There are newer devices that offer “sub-perception,” and means you cannot feel anything.
Who Can Benefit from A Spinal Cord Stimulator?
Spinal cord stimulation is usually an option for treating pain when other pain treatment options haven’t worked. A spinal cord stimulator can help people suffering from the following pain:
- Back pain. Especially for people who still experience back pain after surgery (failed back surgery syndrome)
- Visceral abdominal pain
- Perineal pain
- Spinal cord injuries
- Pain after amputation
- Heart pain where other treatment options haven’t worked
- Post-surgical pain
- Arachnoiditis (where the thin membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord becomes inflamed and painful)
- Nerve-related pain (for example, severe diabetic neuropathy or cancer-related neuropathy from radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy)
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Sciatica resulting in a chronic leg or arm pain
Spinal cord stimulation is often used in conjunction with other pain management treatments, including medication, physical therapy, and exercise and relaxation treatments. A spinal cord stimulator can help improve the quality of life in patients and their sleeping patterns and reduce the need for pain medication.
Eligibility for a Spinal Cord Stimulator
To determine who is eligible for a spinal cord stimulator, your doctor will assess your suitability for the device. It is likely to provide you with significant pain relief. To determine this, there will be imaging tests and psychological tests to allow them to assess your suitability.
Other factors that affect your suitability include:
- Whether previous therapies have failed.
- You have experienced chronic pain for longer than three months.
- The pain is caused by a corrective problem that should have been fixed.
- Further surgery options aren’t suitable.
- No medical conditions that can affect the device or the benefits from having a device implanted.
- You do not have drug or alcohol addiction problems.
- You have completed a successful trial.
If your doctor has decided that you are a suitable candidate for spinal cord stimulation, then your device will be fitted by a surgeon under local anesthetic, usually as an outpatient procedure. Usual activities can be resumed around 2 weeks after surgery. Patients usually can do much more after the surgery than they could without the stimulator fitted, because of the pain relief it provides.
If you are in need of a spinal cord stimulator, we are here to help. Genesis Pain Clinic has the expertise you need to help solve all your spinal cord issues! To learn about what we can do to help, call us today at 913-871-9888.