Spinal Cord Stimulators: How They Help Back Pain

Chronic back pain is one of the most debilitating conditions among adults. Stemming from accidents, poor posture or repetitive movements, some of the issues that cause pain cannot be treated or permanently resolved. In these situations, a spinal cord stimulator may be the adequate solution to regain a good quality of life.

In this article, the doctors at our Sumter pain center will explain what this device is and how it works.

General Overview of Spinal Cord Stimulators

The spinal cord stimulator is a medical device that is implanted near the spinal cord to prevent nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. They work by sending low voltage electric shocks to the nerve

This device consists of three parts:

  • thin wires
  •  the pulse generator –similar to the to the battery pack used for a pacemaker
  • A remote control device.

The wires are placed in the epidural area, between the spinal cord and the vertebrae. The battery pack will be placed under the skin, usually close to the buttock or abdomen.

The patient will carry the remote control with them and use anytime they want to activate the stimulator to stop the pain.

Who May Be a Good Candidate for a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

Compared to other pain management options, this method is invasive, as it involves surgery and carrying a permanent implant in your body. Thus, it is often recommended for patients with severe pain, which could not be managed through other treatments and therapies, such as:

  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Arachnoiditis – a painful inflammation of the arachnoid membrane which covers the brain and the spinal cord
  • Cancer-related pain
  • Angina (heart pain) which does not respond to other treatments
  • Perineal pain and visceral abdominal pain.

Specialists Involved in the Implant Procedure

Implanting a spinal cord stimulator is a surgery-like procedure. Thus, in order to find out if it will be beneficial for you, several specialists at our Sumter pain center will work together to find out if you are a good candidate.

These specialists are:

  • A neurologist, who will diagnose the cause of pain
  • A pain management doctor who will look over all the other failed treatment options and find, if possible, a less invasive way to reduce your pain
  • A neurosurgeon who will effectively perform the implant surgery
  • An anesthesiologist, who will talk to you beforehand to identify any allergies or negative reactions to various types of drugs used for general anesthesia.

a permanent implant can be the solution to severe chronic back pain

Preparation for the Surgery

If our doctors determine that a spinal cord stimulator would improve your quality of life, you will discuss with your doctor about the essential aspects to prepare for the surgery. These involve:

  • Telling the doctor about all the medications you take, including vitamins and natural supplements, as you may have to stop taking some or switch them
  • Bathing and grooming – you will receive instructions about the type of soap or other hygiene products you should use before the surgery
  • Fasting – since the procedure involves a general anesthesia, you will have to refrain from taking any solid food for at least eight hours before the surgery.

Trial Implant

Since the spinal cord stimulator is a permanent pain management solution implanted in your body, our doctors want to test if it works properly. Thus, the first procedure will involve implanting temporary wires which will be attached to a pulse generator placed outside your body.

The procedure will be performed under sedation (light sleep) and will involve only a small incision.

The trial period lasts between a few days and a few weeks. At the end, if you report a decrease in pain of at least 50%, the doctor will proceed to placing the permanent implant.

Implantation Surgery

As explained so far, the implantation of the spinal cord stimulator is done under general anesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision above the spine and place the wires in the necessary position to send weak electric shocks to the nerve.

The doctor will then thread the wires to the pulse generator and create a pocket under your skin to place the generator in an area that is easy for you to reach. This is important because not all stimulators work 24/7. Some models can be turned on and off when necessary.

Once the pulse generator is safely implanted, the doctor will use sutures or staples to close the incision. You may have to spend between 24 and 46 hours in the center for observation. When you are released, you will receive detailed instructions to help you adjust to the implant.

Schedule an Evaluation Appointment at Our Sumter Pain Center!

A spinal cord stimulator may be the solution to manage your pain, but only a team of specialists at our Sumter pain center can determine it. We encourage you to reach out to us and schedule an initial appointment. We will perform a detailed evaluation of your case and make the best recommendation for you.

Call us today at 864-513-6850!