What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a pain-relief technique that delivers a continuous low-voltage electrical current to the spinal cord in order to block the sensation of pain. SCS is the most commonly used implantable neurostimulation technology for chronic pain syndromes.
How Does Spinal Cord Stimulation Work?
Think of SCS as a “mask”. We know that pain messages travel from the peripheral nervous system to the brain, however spinal cord stimulation masks pain signals before they reach the brain. You may be wondering why it works, since technically it’s not eliminating pain – but it’s reducing pain by essentially concealing those pain signals, therefore “telling the brain” there is no pain. Pain messages travel along the peripheral nervous system until they reach the spinal cord. The gate control theory proposes that there are “gates” on the bundle of nerve fibers in the spinal cord between the peripheral nerves. When a patient has a spinal cord stimulator, the pain signals don’t actually reach the brain, therefore reducing the perceived physical pain by as much as 60% or more. SCS can significantly improve outcomes for the patient, improving quality of life and physical function. Ideally, SCS leads to reduction or elimination of daily medications for pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation does not require general anesthesia, but rather a light sedation. It is similar to how an epidural is administered to a pregnant woman, but instead of a catheter that delivers medication, it’s a tiny plastic wire with small electrical leads that emit often imperceptible impulses. It’s proven safer than pregnancy epidurals because it is placed under x-ray guidance allowing us to see exactly where the electrical lead is placed.
How Can It Help With Chronic Pain Management And How Long Does It Last?
The goal for SCS is significant reduction in pain without the use of pain medication. Systems with a non-rechargeable battery need to be surgically replaced every 2 to 5 years, depending on the frequency of use. Rechargeable battery systems last 10 to 12 years, but typically require daily charging for 30-45 minutes remember to charge the system daily. The pulse generator is programmable and adjustable with an external remote control.
Are You A Candidate?
Spinal cord stimulation is a safe, effective drug-free treatment for chronic pain and is most effective for chronic back & leg pain and peripheral neuropathy. It’s a minimally invasive surgery requiring 2 small incisions and a recovery time of 3-6 weeks. If you have questions about spinal cord stimulation, contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Julian.