How does spinal cord stimulation work?
The SCS (spinal cord stimulator) technology works by sending a low-voltage electrical stimulation to the back of the spinal cord which blocks the sensation of pain or the distress associated with pain. This involves implanting a small device inside the body of the patient called a pulse generator that is connected to an electrode which actually touches the spinal cord. The device is designed to transmit a low-voltage electrical current from the pulse generator to the spinal cord. When the device is turned on, the patient will feel a mild tingling in the area where the pain is usually perceived. When the device is turned off, the sensation goes away giving the patient the ultimate control over what he or she is feeling. Sometimes the pain can be quite severe and the stimulator will be turned on. Other times the pain will be less severe and the stimulator is not necessary. Two of the most impressive devices are manufactured by Medtronic and Nevro, each has unique risks and benefits worth investigating.
Spinal Cord Simulation: What Can I Expect?
In general the patient goes through a trial procedure to see if the spinal cord stimulator is right for him or her. A typical trial procedure will last between three and five days. The electrode is placed into the spine, and the pulse generator is left outside the body. Everything is secured to the skin and therefore showering is best avoided during the time of the trial. If the trial is successful and the patient desires implantation, typically implantation will take place a few weeks down the road. In my experience spinal cord stimulation has been an amazing advance in the field of spinal health care. In people who have chronic nerve damage from previous surgery documented by an EMG test, spinal cord stimulation presents a real and viable option to pain medications. It is obviously best to wait at least two years for nerve function to return. In general pain may improve gradually but by two years there is relatively little recovery possible. If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic pain, consider speaking with Dr. Subach or your pain management specialist regarding spinal cord stimulation.