When it comes to chronic pain, there are so many options for relief such as medication, implants, surgeries, and therapy that it all becomes too overwhelming. Each and every person’s chronic pain is different, so their options for betterment often vary.
One such solution for pain relief is a spinal cord stimulator. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is an implanted device, similar to a pacemaker, that sends pulsed electrical signals to the spinal cord in order to control chronic pain. Thin wires send mild electric currents from an electrical pulse generator through to the nerve fibers in the spine, causing relief for the patient, and reducing the need for their opioid medications.
How Does It Work Exactly?
An SCS is surgically inserted underneath the skin, and while it doesn’t FIX the source of the pain, it affects how the brain processes pain signals — allowing the patient to navigate their discomfort in a more productive way.
There are several types of SCS devices with different options that are tailored to the specific needs of each patient. Some SCS devices offer a low-frequency current that replaces pain signals with a tingling sensation. While it may sound counter-productive, some patients will opt for a tingling sensation over pain any day. Other SCS devices use high-frequency pulsations to mask pain with no tingling sensations.
The goal of an SCS is to reduce 50-70% of the amount of pain and reduce the amount of pain medication the patient has to take. The amount of pain relief varies from person to person, while some people find it uncomfortable altogether. Because of the varying effectiveness of the stimulator, a trial period for 5-7 days is usually conducted to ensure the patient will be benefiting from the procedure.
If an SCS is causing more discomfort than relief, it can always be removed with no damage to the nerves or spinal cord.
Who Is a Good Candidate?
If you’re suffering from chronic pain, you can consider an SCS for any of the following reasons:
- If conservative therapies have not worked.
- If an SCS device is preferable to a large, complex spinal surgery with a low success rate.
- If your chronic pain is relatively recent before a cycle of pain-suffering-disability-pain has been established.
An SCS device is known to lessen pain caused by:
- Failed back surgery syndrome
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Stump Pain
- Peripheral Vascular Disease
- Spinal Cord Injury.
Interested? Contact Spine Institute Northwest Today
Our trusted network of neurosurgeons and doctors conduct the procedure after you have qualified for an SCS. A brief psychiatric evaluation and trial period of the stimulator is required before proceeding. If you experience more than 50% relief of your chronic pain, we will determine whether you’re a good fit for an SCS.
To learn more about the benefits, risks, and success rates of spinal cord stimulators, call Spine Institute Northwest at (425) 486-1000.