Spinal Cord Stimulation

If you have chronic pain that has not responded to more conservative treatments, spinal cord stimulation could be the answer. These devices block pain signals, allowing you to experience significant relief. Seven in 10 individuals who opted for an implanted spinal cord stimulation device reported pain reduction in a recent medical study. The skilled professionals at our Pensacola facility can discuss the benefits of this option for you.

What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Spinal cord stimulation is a safe, reversible and effective option for pain that has not responded to more conservative options that include pain medications, physical therapy and steroid injections.

Lesions on the central or peripheral nervous system can lead to chronic neuropathic pain. Spinal cord stimulation has been shown to be effective in treating this sort of pain.

The treatment involves inserting a medical device near the spinal cord that sends out small electrical impulses into the epidural space in the spine. These impulses interrupt pain signals, keeping them from being sent to the brain. Many spinal cord stimulation devices come with a hand-held regulator that allows you to send the pain-blocking electrical signals only when needed.

In studies, 70% of participants report continued benefits from spinal cord stimulation one year after the device is implanted. Researchers estimate that over 14,000 of these devices are inserted every year to control chronic pain. People with spinal cord stimulators typically report that their pain levels are cut by 50% or more. This is often enough to reduce dependence on other types of pain relief, such as opioid medications.

Both transcutaneous and fully implanted spinal cord stimulators are available. Each of these have both benefits and drawbacks. Talk with your doctor about your options to choose the device that is best for you.

How Is Spinal Cord Stimulation Performed?

Before opting for this treatment, you can try spinal cord stimulation for a short time to see if this procedure is effective for you. A two-step screening process allows you to test this option before committing to the implant.

A local anesthetic is provided to keep you comfortable during the procedure. Your doctor will use X-ray guidance to ensure proper placement of the device. Two small incisions are made to the left and right of the area where the electrodes will be placed. The lamina, a thin layer of tissue, is removed and the electrodes are placed in the epidural space of your spine. Your doctor will set the amplitude of the device's electrical impulses based on the effective level for you. A pulse generator will also be placed during the procedure. Your doctor will work with you during the procedure to ensure that the electrodes are placed well to provide pain relief.

After surgery, you should rest while you are recovering. Within two to three weeks, you should be able to resume light activities. Complete recovery can take six to eight weeks. Your doctor may recommend limiting certain physical activities for about three months. While the device will probably be ready for use right away, you may find it more comfortable to wait until any swelling related to your surgery has gone down before starting to use it.

After your procedure, you will need to recharge the batteries in the device about once a week. This takes about two hours. You may be able to feel a small bump where the generator is located. This is unlikely to be visible over clothing.

Conditions Related to Spinal Cord Stimulation

A range of chronic conditions that do not respond to more conservative treatments can be effectively treated using spinal cord stimulation. These conditions include:

  • failed back surgery
  • sciatica
  • spinal stenosis
  • arachnoiditis, a painful scarring of the protective layer of the spine
  • complex regional pain syndrome
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • refractory angina

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