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Is Spinal Cord Stimulation the Answer to Your Chronic Back Pain?

Is Spinal Cord Stimulation the Answer to Your Chronic Back Pain?

It’s difficult to live your best life when you struggle with chronic pain. That’s because chronic pain takes a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Fortunately, advances in medical treatments offer unique and innovative strategies for easing these symptoms, even complex forms of pain involving the nerves.

Our team at Glaser Pain Relief Center in Encino, California, provides comprehensive pain relief solutions for patients in the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles areas. If you have chronic back pain, here’s how spinal cord stimulation could help.

Understanding how pain works

Before looking at spinal cord stimulation as a pain management solution, it’s important to have a general understanding of how pain works.

You experience sensations because nerves throughout your body send signals to your brain. In response, your brain processes the information to tell you what you feel. The feeling of pain occurs when nerves known as nociceptors detect some form of tissue damage and send messages about it to your brain. The entire process occurs in milliseconds. 

In an ideal world, this pain cycle ends when the body heals, as you might see with an acute injury like a cut or broken bone. However, the cycle can sometimes become continuous and lead to chronic pain.

Interrupting the pain cycle with spinal cord stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) takes an entirely different approach to pain management than other treatment methods. It uses a process known as neuromodulation.

Neuromodulation focuses on altering nerve activity. In the case of SCS, the patient can have a minimally invasive pacemaker for pain implanted that delivers mild pulses of electrical currents that change the perception of pain being perceived in the body where a person should not be having pain. 

To accomplish this, your doctor implants wires in your epidural space or the specific nerves triggering your pain. They receive power from a small implanted battery, and you have a controller you use to turn it on and off as needed as well as adjust the level of electrical output.

It’s important to note that this approach doesn’t heal what’s causing your pain. Instead, it disrupts the pain signals going to your brain, which changes the sensations you feel. Patients have reported tingling, fluttering, or no sensation at all when using a spinal cord stimulator. The goal of this treatment is a minimized sensation of pain.

When to consider spinal cord stimulation

SCS can be effective for a wide range of pain conditions, such as:

In most cases, we recommend trying less invasive therapies before exploring spinal cord stimulation. SCS always begins with a trial — using a temporary device that requires no sutures — so we can determine whether it’s right for you before surgically implanting your stimulator.

What to expect from spinal cord stimulation

During your trial period, we implant two small wires in the epidural space of your spine, and you wear the battery on the outside of your body for approximately one week while we evaluate how well it reduces your pain. If you have a 50% or greater reduction, we consider it a success and move on to permanent stimulator implantation.

When we permanently implant your SCS device, we anchor the wires in place to reduce movement and place the battery generator underneath your skin — you’ll have an incision along your lower abdomen or buttocks approximately the length of a driver’s license. The entire process takes 1-2 hours.

You can typically go home the same day you get your permanent device, and the surgical site should heal completely within 2-4 weeks. While spinal cord stimulation comes with few complications, we can remove the device if needed.

Are you curious to learn if spinal cord stimulation may be the answer to your chronic back pain? Contact Glaser Pain Relief Center to learn more about your treatment options by calling 818-862-3388 or requesting an appointment online today.

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