When ongoing back pain isn’t responding well to traditional treatments, patients often explore other options before resorting to spine surgery. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is one such option. While it doesn’t treat the true source of pain, SCS provides relief by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
How Spinal Cord Stimulation Works
The purpose of spinal cord stimulation is to block the brain’s ability to sense pain by blocking signals transmitted via the nervous system. SCS involves the placement of thin, soft wires with electric leads through a needle into the affected area of the back without the need for an incision. However, an incision is required for the placement of the programmable generator, which can be placed in the abdomen or upper buttock just under the skin.
Programming the Generator
Initial programming of the generator, which controls the electrical signals sent to the affected area of the spine, is done at the hospital. The patient can then use a handheld remote to turn the generator on and off as needed to better manage their pain. The battery inside of the generator, which delivers low-level electrical impulses, will need to be surgically replaced every 2-5 years, although rechargeable systems can last up to 10 years.
Who Should Try SCS
In order to be a candidate for SCS, a patient must have tried other methods of pain relief without success. Possible candidates for SCS will then undergo a comprehensive evaluation of their medical history along with an examination of previous diagnostic findings specific to their condition. The evaluation process often includes psychological and neurological assessments. Ideal candidates also include patients:
• Not heavily dependent on pain medications
• With a verified source of back pain
• Without depression or other psychiatric conditions
• Not likely to benefit from other procedures
• Without existing medical conditions that may prevent implantation of the generator
SCS doesn’t necessarily eliminate all instances of spine-related pain. Some patients who qualify report as much as a 70 percent reduction in pain with SCS. It’s also an option worth considering for patients who want to minimize dependence on pain medications.
Learn more about your options for pain relief, including non-fusion spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery in Los Angeles, by reaching out to the experienced team of diagnosticians and orthopedic surgeons at The Spine Institute. Call (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation today.