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Am I A Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Am I A Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?

If you live with chronic back pain or neck pain, you already know how much it can interfere with your daily life. Your family doctor may not have many solutions for you and may only want to prescribe pills, which have a limited effectiveness and a high addiction potential.

But there’s another treatment option that you may not have considered: spinal cord stimulation. In this post, the interventional pain management specialists at Glaser Pain Relief Center in Encino, California, explain more about spinal cord stimulation and who is a good candidate for the procedure.

What is spinal cord stimulation?

Spinal cord stimulation delivers low-level electrical signals to your spinal cord or to certain nerves in order to dull or block pain signals to your brain.

A spinal cord stimulator is a small device implanted at the base of your spine or near your upper buttock. You can control the electrical current or turn it on or off. Many people describe a light tingling sensation from the electric current, although some patients who use a spinal cord stimulator do not feel anything.

The device itself is made up of two parts: the electrodes are thin wires, and the generator is a pacemaker-like battery pack. The electrodes are placed in the space between two vertebrae, also called the epidural space. The generator is placed beneath the skin, above your buttocks or on your abdomen. The external controller fits in your hand.

Who is a candidate for spinal cord stimulation?

If you’ve had other therapies or taken medications and haven’t received sufficient relief, spinal cord stimulation may be a good solution for you. Spinal cord stimulation can be effective if you have chronic back pain, sciatica, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), neuropathy, or other types of chronic pain. 

Often, people with chronic pain, especially back pain, think surgery is the next step in treatment after failing to find relief with medications or less-invasive therapies. Spinal surgery requires disrupting the structure of your spine, including removing or fusing bone and sometimes inserting hardware such as screws. It also requires a long recovery period.

By contrast, spinal cord stimulation surgery is minimally invasive and is performed on an outpatient basis.

You can try spinal cord stimulation first

Unlike spine surgeries, you can try spinal cord stimulation for a few days to find out if it will provide you with sufficient relief. You can have electrodes inserted under light sedation and wear them with a temporary external generator to determine if the stimulator works to bring you relief from your pain.

If the trial is successful, we then schedule you for a second procedure to permanently insert the electrodes and the small generator through small incisions. It’s important to follow up with your doctor as recommended after the implant procedure to ensure you haven’t developed an infection at the incision sites.

What to expect

Although it would be nice if we could completely eliminate your pain, that’s not a realistic expectation. Generally, we consider spinal cord stimulation to be successful if it reduces your pain by about half. Spinal cord stimulation has made a significant difference in many patients’ lives and has helped them avoid more invasive surgical procedures.

If you have chronic pain, ask your physician at Glaser Pain Relief Center if spinal cord stimulation is right for you. Contact us today, or request an appointment online.

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