“Spinal cord stimulation or neurostimulation works by intercepting pain signals before they reach the brain. To do this, a small system is implanted within the body. This system, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, is used to replace pain with a different feeling. Some people describe this feeling as a gentle massaging sensation or, in some cases, simply the absence of pain.”
Dr. Fiks | Advanced Pain Management Center
- Pain signals travel up the spinal cord to the brain
- A generator sends pulses to a lead (a thin wire)
- The lead delivers these pulses to nerves along the spinal cord
- The pulses block the pain signals before they reach the brain
- The painful feeling is replaced with a more pleasant sensation
WHAT SYNDROMES DOES SPINAL CORD STIMULATION TREAT?
- Chronic pain in the back, neck, arms or legs that has lasted at least six months
- Neuropathic pain (pain marked by burning, tingling or numbness)
- Little or no relief from surgery or other treatment options such as pain medications, nerve blocks, or physical therapy
- Nerve root compression
- Failed back surgery syndrome
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disk disease
- Sciatica or lumbar radiculitis
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Central sensitization
Spinal cord stimulation uses technology that works by introducing an electrical current into the epidural space near the source of chronic pain impulses. Under a local anesthetic and minimal sedation your doctor will first place the trial SCS leads into the epidural space. The spinal stimulator lead is a soft, thin wire with electrical leads on its tip and is placed through a needle in the back into the epidural space. The trial stimulator is typically worn for 5-7days as the lead is taped to your back and connected to a stimulating device. If the trial successfully relieves your pain you can undergo a permanent SCS implantation if desired.
The implanted device near the area of pain produces a low voltage current, which creates a sensation that blocks the brain’s ability to sense the previously perceived pain. It interferes with the perception of pain received by the brain by creating a pleasant sensation that replaces the pain. The intensity of the stimulator can be changed, and the system can be turned on and off as necessary to provide optimal pain relief as experienced by the patient.
Spinal cord stimulation improves lumbar back pain in patients with many different conditions, and has proven to be extremely effective in patients with failed back surgery syndrome. It is shown to reduce the level of pain as well as the amount of pain medication taken by patients.