For patients with chronic back and leg pain, it may seem like there is no solution that doesn't involve potentially dangerous pain medication. But spinal cord stimulation can be a simple solution that lets you get back to your daily life.
How does it work? And what can it mean for you?
How SCS Works
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) involves implanting a small device into the lower back or buttocks with leads that are placed along certain areas of the spinal cord. The neurostimulator device delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord to alter pain impulses being sent by nerves in the lower extremities. The result is a sort of "confusing" of the pain messages before they reach the brain and can be processed as pain.
How to Begin
To start with, your pain management doctor will likely do a trial run with a non-implanted neurostimulator that is taped to your back for about a week. The leads are inserted in a short, outpatient surgical procedure. During the testing period, you may not have a handheld controller but will be experiencing continuous stimulation. After the anesthetic wears off, you should feel some pain relief. While SCS usually doesn't clear up all pain, many patients get as much as 50% pain relief from before.
After the testing period, you will asses with your doctor how you felt about this technique. If it was a success, the same procedure will be completed with a permanent stimulator. You may be able to charge it wirelessly once or twice per week depending on how often you adjust it. Your doctor will discuss any other restrictions, such as with future medical procedures or tests as well as X-Ray machines.
What You Control
After the procedure, the pain management doctor's office will program the device to send particular electrical stimulation. You will help with this programming process by identifying what you feel as the technician adjusts the signals. As you both find settings that offer pain relief without accompanying electrical tingling or discomfort, these programs will be left in the device as options.
At home, you can adjust the hand-held programmer to one of several different preset programs as well as altering the intensity of stimulation. Some patients change these settings often while others find sufficient pain relief from a single setting. You'll follow up with the doctor on a regular basis for adjustment and check-in.
Does SCS sound like something that may work for you? Visit a doctor at clinics like the Headache and Pain Center to discuss whether you're a candidate for this type of relief. And then you can get on with your life with less pain and more enjoyment.