When you have back or neck pain, your life is turned upside down. Even the simplest activities or tasks can leave you in debilitating pain for days. Although some home treatments may help temporarily, your pain often persists despite these measures. However, a spinal cord stimulator is a minimally invasive option to relieve your pain.
At Alliance Orthopedics, our team specializes in many different treatment options for your chronic pain. Whether it’s your neck or your back that’s making your life miserable, our doctors help you determine what treatment options, including spinal cord stimulators, are right for you and your condition.
Spinal cord stimulators — When are they needed?
Spinal cord stimulators are a tool our team uses to help you manage chronic pain in your spine. It’s less invasive than traditional spine surgery and provides widespread pain relief for chronic back and neck conditions.
Chronic pain in your spine is a condition that has many different causes. Whether you had an injury in the past, or you have a degenerative condition, chronic pain is hard to fight off, even with treatment. Spinal cord stimulation is considered when other conservative treatments have failed to give you relief.
So how do you know if you’re a candidate for this type of therapy? Our doctors consider not only your medical history of chronic pain, but also other conditions you have and how long you’ve been dealing with your pain. Other reasons this type of therapy could work for you include:
- You won’t benefit from surgery
- You’re relatively in good health
- You want to avoid a larger surgical procedure
- You’ve had pain for longer than three months
- Your pain has persisted, despite other treatments
Typically you’ll undergo a trial of the spinal cord stimulator first, before you have the permanent one implanted. This device helps relieve pain related to sciatica, along with other conditions that cause pain, such as:
- Spinal stenosis
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Nerve damage
If you’re a good candidate for this procedure, our doctors discuss what to expect and how the device works to help relieve your pain so you can live a productive life.
How the device works
The way a spinal cord stimulator works is relatively simple — it uses electrical impulses to disrupt the pathway of pain to your brain. It’s able to do this from leads that are placed close to nerves in your spine. The leads are attached to a pulse generator, which is also implanted.
The leads have tiny sensors on them that provide the mild electrical pulses to the nerves. Our team places these leads in the epidural space, or the space between your vertebrae and spinal cord. The pulse generator is placed under your skin in either your abdomen or your buttock area. The leads are then connected to the pulse generator.
Typically, the stimulator works by small electrical impulses interrupting the pain signal to your brain. However, there are newer systems available that you don’t have to feel the tingling sensations, known as sub-perception paresthesia. This still works to relieve your pain, just without the tingling sensation.
You can control the device with a remote that you carry with you outside of your body. With this remote, you’re able to change the intensity and settings of the stimulation that you’re receiving.
What to expect during the procedure
Before you have the permanent device implanted, our doctors perform a trial of the specific stimulator you’ll be using. The trial usually lasts anywhere from a few days to a week, and if you get at least 50% pain reduction from the trial, we schedule you for the permanent device.
The permanent spinal cord stimulator placement is performed in the operating room under twilight anesthesia. Our doctors use a type of X-ray, known as fluoroscopy, to make sure the leads are in the correct area that’s causing you pain. The leads are secured with anchors, and they’re then tunneled to the pulse generator.
If you’re getting the type of stimulator you can feel, we wake you up during the procedure to make sure the leads are where they need to be. Once the location is verified, you go back to sleep for the remainder of the case.
If you’re getting a spinal cord stimulator you can’t feel, you stay asleep for the whole procedure, and our doctors verify placement with your trial X-rays and imaging.
If you think a spinal cord stimulator could help your chronic pain, don’t hesitate to call one of our four convenient locations in New Jersey, or book a telehealth visit or regular visit online today.