Spinal cord stimulation uses small electrical pulses—which the patient controls themselves, using a remote—to mask and disrupt pain signals traveling through the spinal cord before they reach the brain.
Used to reduce patients’ chronic pain and reliance on pain medications, spinal cord stimulators consist of thin wires and electrodes placed between the spinal cord and vertebrae, as well as a small, pacemaker like battery device implanted hear the buttocks or lower abdomen. These wires carry a pulsating current from the battery to the connected nerve fibers effectively disrupting and modifying the body’s natural pain signal before pain is felt.
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When it comes to back and neck injuries, spinal cord stimulation is worth considering when surgery is not an option or non-surgical options such as physical therapy or behavioral therapy methods have failed. By using the remote control to directly send pulses to the brain when pain is felt, patients can use spinal cord stimulation for long-lasting relief when other nonsurgical pain treatment options are no longer an option.
While experts still do not fully understand the mechanisms behind spinal cord stimulations’ success, the procedure has received acclaim for its ability to directly target multiple muscle groups at once and bring long term pain relief without the aid of opiates. Some of the key benefits of spinal cord stimulation compared to spinal surgery include a lower risk of nerve damage, loss of mobility, or paralysis and a lower risk of other complications, such as infection. Additionally, spinal cord stimulation can be used for a variety of chronic pain conditions, including a 50-70% reduction in pain from:
- Chronic Back Pain
- Post-Surgical Pain
- Injuries to the Spinal Cord
- Nerve-Related Pain such as Severe Neuropathy
- Peripheral Vascular Disease & Heart Pain
- Pain After Amputation
- Abdominal Pain
There are two types of spinal cord stimulators: a trial version that allows the client to see if this treatment works for them and a permanent version should they decide this path is the best for their pain management.
Depending on where the stimulator is placed, the device’s settings can be programmed in 2-3 preset programs to target different pain receptors most activated during certain activities such as walking, sitting or sleeping. When activated, the device replaces the feeling of pain with a slight tingling sensation or a “sub-perception” stimulation which has no feeling at all.