If you’ve been suffering from chronic back pain, or have undergone spine surgery that did not provide relief, you may be a candidate for a therapy called spinal cord stimulation. The process makes use of implantable spine stimulators that provide pulsed electrical signals to the spinal cord. The technology has been shown to provide significant relief from pain, with between 85 and 90 percent of those who have undergone treatment reporting a 50 to 70 percent reduction in discomfort. The procedure can also be used to provide control of spasticity and to support patients working towards increased mobility.
So how can you tell whether it’s the right next step for you? An experienced spine surgeon can quickly assess your specific needs and determine whether your condition is one of those for which spinal cord stimulation provides a benefit.
The condition that most frequently leads to the use of spinal cord stimulation is failed back surgery syndrome. Patients with failed back surgery syndrome continue to experience neck, arm or back pain or sciatica despite having already gone through one or more surgeries. Other situations that spinal cord stimulation relieves include:
- Arachnoiditis – A stinging burning pain resulting from inflammation of the membranes surrounding the nerves of the spinal cord
- Chronic Back or Neck Pain
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – A misfiring of the nervous system that can develop after a heart attack, injury, stroke, or surgery. The condition results in chronic arm or leg pain
- Peripheral Neuropathy – A condition of the nervous system resulting from damage and leading to weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands or feet
- Refractory Angina – Chronic, disabling chest and heart pain that does not respond to traditional treatment
If you are a candidate for spinal cord stimulation, your spine surgeon will first use a temporary stimulator to see whether it provides you with pain relief and whether you are comfortable with the sensations that it generates. The trial is a small outpatient procedure to implant leads that generally takes just 45 minutes. If you find that the stimulator works for you we’ll schedule a follow-up outpatient procedure about a week later to permanently implant a battery pack.
Though this innovative technology has proven to be extremely helpful to patients whose pain comes from an injury, disease or trauma to the central nervous system, it is unfortunately not appropriate for everybody. Patients who are not considered candidates include those who have a demand-type cardiac pacemaker; who have an infection at the site where the device would be implanted; who have a systemic infection; who suffer from a bleeding disorder; who have untreated drug addiction issues; or who suffer from severe mood disorder that might be contributing to or exacerbating their pain. Smokers are also urged to quit their use of nicotine before being considered for the procedure, as tobacco has been linked to reduced effectiveness.
Spinal cord stimulation therapy can eliminate pain and return you to many of the normal activities that you’ve been missing.