When patients are living with chronic pain and other therapies have not provided relief, a spinal cord stimulator may be an option. This medical device has been available for patients suffering from chronic pain, failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome and other conditions since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in 2014. Though it is not appropriate for all patients, many of those who have had this system implanted have found that it has masked their pain and improved their quality of life.
A spinal cord stimulator is implanted in the body during a short surgical procedure. It consists of a small device placed under the skin, as well as a control box that provides the patient with control of the amount of stimulation targeted at their spinal cord. The device sends a current of electricity to the nerve roots associated with your pain. The signals masks and modifies the pain signals that are generated by the spinal cord and prevent them from reaching the brain. This means that the pain is not eliminated as much as it is interrupted and reinterpreted by the body. The system allows the patient to take control of their pain experience and cut back dramatically on the use of medication.
Patients who have had one of these symptoms implanted usually find that it takes a month or two to get accustomed to the system. Adjustments are usually needed while you are new to the system and learn more about the different levels of stimulation are available, and how they impact your own pain experience. You will also need to give yourself time to recover from the procedure itself, and for any pain at the implantation site to resolve. The sooner you get yourself moving and back to normal activity (or activities that you were not able to pursue because of your pain), the better. The idea is that when you find that an action causes pain, you can respond to it immediately.
Most patients report that after they have gotten used to the device and learned how to use it, they experience a dramatic reduction in pain – some say that their discomfort is reduced by 50 to 70%. The units are extremely portable and allow a tremendous degree of freedom – people who have them implanted are able to run, swim, and carry out many of the activities that had previously been impossible because of the pain that they caused.
There are certain adjustments that you’ll need to make once the stimulator has been installed. You are not able to drive or use heavy equipment when it is activated, and the device may set off metal detectors when you enter a security area. We will provide you with documentation about the device that is acceptable to TSA and other authorities. You may be asked to turn it off during takeoff and landing when flying and may experience a strange sensation when walking near anti-theft devices in retail environments. By contrast, you will find no interference or interaction with more common electronic equipment.
Relieving your pain is our top priority. For more information on whether you are a good candidate for a spinal cord stimulator, contact our office today to set up an appointment.