Neurostimulation utilizes advanced technology to treat certain chronic pain conditions. It is recommended when chronic neuropathic pain, resulting from damage to nerves, can’t be controlled with other treatment modalities, including surgery. Neurostimulation is one of the few treatments that allows a “test drive,” in that a temporary device can be inserted for up to a week while you determine the amount of pain relief it provides. You don’t have to rely on anyone’s recommendation or opinion regarding how much relief you may have. Here is a great resource with more information about this treatment:
What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation has become a frequently employed treatment for chronic pain in the back and/or limbs in those who have not had successful treatment from other options. While the treatment may not work for each individual, most patients who are good candidates for neurostimulation therapy have stated they received a 50 to 70% reduction in general pain in addition to an increased ability to participate in every day family and work activities.
The first step in the process is to get a comprehensive evaluation by a spine physician to determine if the patient may or may not be a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation treatment of chronic pain.
Who is a Good Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Someone is a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation when:
- Chronic back pain with or without leg pain
- Chronic neck pain with or without arm pain
- Prior back surgery with enduring or worsening pain
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
- Refractory angina
Although several patients have benefited from spinal cord stimulation, the treatment is not right for everyone. Spinal cord stimulation should not be employed if the patient has a correctable lesion, which will usually be treated with surgery.
What is the Procedure Like?
The initial step will be to get a comprehensive assessment from a spine physician to identify if the patient is a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation treatment of lingering pain. Unlike several other forms of pain treatment, spinal cord stimulation will entail a short trial period lasting about a week. This is conducted with a temporary stimulator in order to determine if spinal cord stimulation is providing the patient with enough pain relief.
If the patient experiences a significant relief from the pain during the trial period, a permanent system with a generator will then be implanted. For the permanent system, a surgical operation is required to insert the generator in the upper buttock or abdomen. The steps are as follows:
- The person’s skin is numbed with a localized anesthetic
- Leads are inserted underneath the skin
- A small battery is surgically inserted under the skin in the abdomen or upper buttock
- The wires are connected which allows the entire system to be under the skin
- The entire process will last roughly 60 to 90 minutes and is performed as an outpatient procedure