An SCS is a small device that is surgically placed under the skin. It sends signals to the spine and blocks pain impulses. It can provide a tremendous reduction in pain, and is often used in patients for whom other treatment options have failed.
Talk to your Pain Specialist about the Spinal Cord Stimulator. Your Pain Specialist will determine if it is right for your type and severity of pain. First, you will undergo a reversible surgical procedure that will allow you to actually experience the benefits the SCS. You’ll use a temporary, non-implanted (external) system for a few days.
After your Trial Period, you and your doctor will decide whether or not spinal cord stimulation is the right answer for your pain. If both of you determine that the SCS system addresses your pain needs and fits your lifestyle, then you will undergo another procedure to place the SCS. The small size of the implant allows doctors to place the implant in a comfortable or convenient location. Connected to the SCS implant are flexible leads that are placed under the skin in the epidural space (near the spinal cord). On the end of each lead, there are contacts that deliver pain-masking signals to the spinal cord.
After the procedure, you will work with your Pain Specialist to program your therapy for optimal pain relief. The SCS system offers you and your Pain Specialist a very important benefit: You can experience the pain-masking signals in real-time as you and your Pain Specialist use a simple programmer to direct the signals right at your pain. And once you target the pain locations, you can sculpt the tiny electric fields to find relief for your pain.
If you or someone you care about has been living with chronic pain, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) may provide new hope. Spinal cord stimulation is a medical therapy for people who suffer from certain types of chronic neuropathic pain. SCS is not a cure for pain. The objective with this therapy is to reduce a patient’s discomfort to a manageable level, so the patient can return to a more normal lifestyle.
Spinal cord stimulation is actually part of a broader category of therapies called neurostimulation, which includes peripheral nerve stimulation. Neurostimulation therapies are used for pain relief or symptom relief from certain types of chronic pain and neurological disorders.
Spinal cord stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation use an implanted device—a spinal cord stimulator (sometimes called a pacemaker for pain)—to deliver low levels of electrical energy directly to nerve fibers. This direct approach to treating pain at its source can be very effective.
The type of neurostimulation that might be appropriate for your condition depends upon many factors, including the cause of your pain or neurologic disorder as well as its type and location.
Spinal cord stimulation has three significant advantages. First, it can be very effective in reducing chronic pain from certain conditions. Second, you will have an SCS trial before you have a permanent system implanted. An SCS trial allows you to determine if the therapy will work for you. And lastly, the implanted device can be turned off permanently or removed if you do not achieve the desired level of relief.
To understand how spinal cord stimulation (SCS) works, it is helpful to understand the components of a spinal cord stimulation system. SCS systems typically consist of three components designed to work together:
Obtaining a SCS system involves a relatively short surgical procedure during which a lead or leads are placed in the space above of the spinal column (epidural space) and a generator/receiver is inserted under the skin. The leads are connected to the generator/receiver. When the generator/receiver’s power is turned on, electrical energy is sent through the leads to electrodes that stimulate the nerve fibers associated with painful areas.
This stimulation effectively changes the pain messages and replaces them with a more pleasant sensation called paresthesia. If a patient likes the stimulation sensation, and it helps to relieve his or her pain, then spinal cord stimulation is a good option. For some patients, however, the sensation is not pleasant and/or it does not relieve pain. That is why a trial procedure is normally performed to determine how a patient will respond to stimulation.
Each type of SCS system has advantages and disadvantages. Should you consider getting a spinal cord stimulator, you and your physician will decide which system is best for your situation. This decision will be based on factors such as your pain pattern, your lifestyle, and how much electrical energy is required to provide adequate pain relief.