An important treating option for people suffering from Chronic Pain
What is Chronic pain?
If you have suffered debilitating pain of the spine, arms or legs for three months or more, you might be a candidate for a spinal chord stimulator. It works best for nerve pain but also can help people who suffer from Arthritis, Spinal Stenosis and other degenerative spinal problems. Generally Spinal Cord is reserved for people who do not improve following more structural surgeries or who are not candidates for these procedures.
Before we talk about treatment options, we must define what Chronic Pain is. Chronic Pain is defined as pain that has lasted for more than 3 months. That is not a long period of time and you don’t need to suffer for years and years to fit this definition. Research show that people with chronic pain do better when treated earlier rather than after suffering after a prolonged period of time. This is true when talking about Spinal Chord Stimulators or more conventional procedures.
The Spinal Cord Stimulator
A spinal chord stimulator is a system that includes a pacemaker-like device that delivers mild electrical impulses to the spinal chord via wires. The electrical impulses interrupt pain signals and prevent them from reaching the brain. Spinal Cord stimulators have been used in the treatment of Chronic pain since the 1960’s and they’re continuously being updated and improved to optimize experience and outcome. The patient feels better with the stimulator but it’s not changing the spine in any way.
One of the best features of Spinal Chord Stimulation is that you can try it out first before undergoing surgery. It is like taking a new car home for a test drive for a few days. The trial procedure lets us know if the stimulator is likely to be effective for you. If the trial procedure reduces your pain, you can be confident the permanent implant will as well.
During the Stimulator trial, we insert a small wire into the epidural space around the spinal chord. It is then attached to a battery on the other end that can be hooked to your belt or clothing like a pager. You can go home after the appointment to see how you like it.
Some Spinal Cord Stimulator devices use a low-frequency current to replace the pain sensation with a mild tingling called paresthesia. Other stimulators use high-frequency or Burst pulses to mask the pain with no tingling feeling. A paresthesia-free setting is usually an option with most devices.
After 3-5 days of trialing, we remove the wire in the office, and with you input we make a decision. Do we implant this permanently? Or do we try other therapeutic options. If you choose to get the Stimulator device implanted, we schedule for procedure which we do in an outpatient setting so you may go home the same day.
Does a Spinal Chord Stimulator work?
Clearly, Spinal Chord Stimulators are time tested options for people who feel that they have exhausted their other options. People who have had multiple injections or back surgery and are still suffering, should know that the spinal chord stimulators can make a significant improvement in their life. Those who take pain medication, the stimulator enables you to take less. This means improve effects with less medications. People are more able to be functional, more engaged with their families and more able to enjoy life.
If you have questions about Spinal Chord Stimulators, or if you think you are a candidate for one, feel free to call for a telemedicine consultation with our pain management.