Spinal cord stimulation or SCS is a neuromodulation technique used to help manage chronic back pain caused by peripheral neuropathy. The device consists of an electrode connected to a generator placed between the spinal cord and vertebrae. With the stimulator over the spinal cord, it stimulates sensory nerves, blocking pain signals from traveling to the brain. Hence, reducing or eliminating sensations of pain. However, it does not eliminate the source of pain, and pain relief varies for each patient.
Conditions That Spinal Cord Stimulation Treats
Spinal cord stimulators may ease or manage various types of chronic pain, such as:
- Post-surgical pain
- Back pain, especially failed back surgery syndrome
- Spinal cord injuries
- Nerve-related pain
- Complex regional pain
- Pain after an amputation
- Visceral abdominal pain
- Perineal pain
Spinal cord stimulation reduces the need for pain medicines and can significantly improve your overall quality of life. Your physician may also advise you to undergo other pain management treatments, such as relaxation methods and exercise, as well as physical therapy for better results.
If non-surgical treatments have failed to manage chronic pain, your physician may consider this method for you. You will undergo counselling and testing to understand how to use the stimulator.
Before the procedure, you will go through a trial period with your doctor placing a wire into the space outside the spinal cord. The purpose is to test how well spinal cord stimulation will help with your pain symptoms prior to permanent placement of the stimulator under the skin.
After a successful trial comes the surgery to place a permanent stimulator on the spinal cord. The minimally-invasive operation starts by making a small incision in the back, near the waist. The electrode or wire is positioned through the cut to the space behind the spinal cord. It connects to a small battery-powered generator set near the waist. Once the system is working correctly, the surgeon will close the incision to wrap up the surgery.
Patients can control the spinal cord stimulator using a small hand-held remote. There are rechargeable generators that can last for 10 to 15 years and non-rechargeable generators, which are replaced every 3 to 5 years.
Post-Surgery and Recovery
Once the anaesthesia has worn off, patients can leave on the same day of the surgery. The incision usually heals within 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. The surgery site may be painful for several days, so it is advised not to stretch or twist to avoid pulling at the incision. Discuss your post-surgery recovery plan with your surgeon as it varies for each patient.
The stimulator can put restrictions on your ability to drive, swim, and get imaging and medical tests done, such as MRI and ultrasound, defibrillator, and diathermy. It is imperative to consult with your surgeon on the limitations of your specific device.
Spinal Cord Stimulation in Washington and New Mexico
If you have chronic back pain, spinal cord stimulation may be the treatment for you. Consult with your doctor on whether you are a viable candidate.
Our team of physicians and pain specialists in Lynx Healthcare aims to help patients get quickly back on track toward comfortable and pain-free living. We have a goal to provide each of our patients with the best and the most up-to-date medical services.