When back pain is chronic, and there’s no other solution for relieving these sensations, spinal cord stimulation therapy may be a way to regain a pain-free life. Dr. Ashley M. Classen and the team at Trinity Pain Medicine Associates in Fort Worth, Texas can fit you with a spinal cord stimulator to mask the pain signals from a chronic nerve condition. Call the office or request an appointment online to find out if a spinal cord stimulator is right for you.
A small electrical device that’s similar to a pacemaker, a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is an implant that delivers tiny electrical impulses to your spinal cord. This electronic impulse alters and masks pain signals somewhere after the source point of the pain, but before the nerve reaches the brain. This masking effect reduces or eliminates the pain sensation by changing the signal that your brain interprets as pain.
An SCS is typically used for patients with chronic pain conditions that don’t respond to other treatment options. Spinal cord stimulation can reduce or eliminate the need for pain medication, which can be particularly important if opioid medications are the only effective drug therapy. An SCS may prevent the need for addictive levels of medication.
Phantom pain that sometimes follows amputation is another effective application for spinal cord stimulation since there’s no longer a physical source for the pain.
It’s important to keep in mind that a spinal cord stimulator doesn’t eliminate the cause of the pain, it only changes the nature of the pain signal to the brain. SCS devices usually have two signal options. A low-frequency, constant current signal replaces pain with a tingling sensation called paresthesia. The second option is a high-frequency pulse burst which can mask pain without paresthesia.
Though there are different designs of SCS implant, each has three primary components. The pulse generator and battery comprise the body of the implant and a lead wire with between 8 and 32 electrodes is also implanted to deliver electrical signals to the target nerves. The third component is a remote control that operates the implant, including turning it on and off and adjusting the settings.
SCS therapy doesn’t work for all patients. Some may have a low tolerance of paresthesia, or the SCS device may not provide sufficient pain relief. Implants are usually tested before permanent installation, and an SCS implant may be removed at any time without harm.
You may be a candidate to receive an SCS if: