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What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Have you ever wondered why your pain just won’t seem to go away? Well, you aren’t alone. Pain is a complex process and long-term, or chronic pain differs greatly from short-term, or acute pain. See Where Does Chronic Pain Come From? to better understand why your pain is persisting. 

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Dr. Manvar performs a SCS trial in the office

What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation and How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Work?

While there are many options to treat chronic pain, one of the more long-term solutions is the use of a spinal cord stimulator. It works a lot like a pacemaker except for your nerves instead of your heart. When your heartbeat is overactive, a pacemaker delivers electrical energy to regulate your heartbeat. When your pain is overactive, a spinal cord stimulator delivers electrical energy to the spinal cord to regulate your pain. 

Much like a pacemaker, a spinal cord stimulator gets its energy from a very small battery. A spinal cord stimulator uses thin wires called leads that are connected to the battery. The leads have electrodes, and are placed into your epidural space. The electrodes deliver a mild electrical current that helps to disrupt pain signals to your brain, essentially altering, changing, and outsmarting your pain. 

A spinal cord stimulator is used as a pain treatment after more conservative, non-surgical treatments between the spinal cord and the vertebrae have been unsuccessful. The devices requires a two step process. First, the patient gets a trial to test the device and only if there is significant relief, the second part is the actual implantation. As well as reducing pain, spinal cord stimulation can reduce the need for analgesic medications and improve the quality of sleep.

Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Right for Me?

A spinal cord stimulator implant can help treat chronic pain that has not responded to more conservative treatments. If you have tried physical therapy, medications, injections, and even spine surgery and these have all failed to reduce your pain to a manageable level, then spinal cord stimulation may be right for you. 

Spinal cord stimulation is used to treat the following conditions but not limited to:

  • Post-laminectomy syndrome (Failed back surgery syndrome)
  • Chronic low back and/or arm/leg pain
  • Intervertebral disc disorder or displacement
  • Degenerative disc disease (DDD)
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Neuropathy and painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy (pDPN)
  • Sciatica or radiculopathy
  • Nerve injury
  • Spondylosis or spondylolisthesis
  • Phantom limb pain or syndrome
  • Plexopathy
  • End-stage peripheral vascular disease

This list is not comprehensive and spinal cord stimulators are increasingly being used for different kinds of painful health conditions. If Dr. Manvar thinks you are a suitable candidate for spinal cord stimulation therapy, he will arrange a trial period so see if and how well the device eases your pain.

Can I Trial Spinal Cord Stimulation Before I Decide?

Unlike other implants or surgeries, you trial spinal cord stimulation before you get an implant. How great would it be to try out a spine surgery before it’s irreversible? Committing to something like this is like buying a car without test driving it first. The spinal cord stimulator trial allows you to “test drive” spinal cord stimulation before you get an implant. The trial stimulator gives you between 5 and 10 days to decide if spinal cord stimulation will work for you. During this trial, the battery pack remains on the outside of the body, but the leads are placed in the epidural space. The spinal cord stimulator trial is a nonsurgical procedure performed in the office. The spinal cord stimulator trial allows you and your doctor to gauge how you respond to this treatment. If you have significant functional improvement or improvement in your quality of life then you are a good candidate for a permanent spinal cord stimulator implant.

Why Choose Integrative Pain & Spine Institute?

Experiencing pain and looking for a solution? A Spinal Cord Stimulator may bring you immediate relief. We understand that people are individuals. We stay aware of the latest research to best understand individual causes for chronic pain, and then we treat every patient with a personalized approach to give them the best possible care.  If you are interested in discussing a spinal cord stimulator trial further, please let Dr. Manvar know at your next appointment or call us today at 704-317-1440 for more information!

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