Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy - Is it right for me?

Similar to when patients with a bad heart may benefit from a pacemaker, patients with a bad back or many other painful chronic conditions may benefit from a small electronic implant called a spinal cord stimulator.

What spinal cord stimulators do is modulate (or alter) pain signaling as it travels along the spinal cord with the goal of improving the sensation or perception of pain. And they don't just help a little... a more recent study done on patients with lower back and leg pain reported on average just under 70% relief of their lower back and leg pain due to stimulator use. These are patients that previously had reported their average pain was about an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale. After having a stimulator implanted their average pain was around a 2. That's huge! 

So, is a stimulator a good idea for you and what is the process?

Spinal cord stimulators treat neuropathic types of pain. First off, if you have ever had back surgery or have complex regional pain syndrome and you have ongoing pain - then a stimulator trial is right for you! If you have pain that is present constantly or burns or tingles or moves from one place to another like from the back down to the leg/foot... then a stimulator trial may be a good idea for you as well but you should have a consult with me prior to considering a trial.

So, what is a the trial?

The great thing about a spinal cord stimulator is that there is a trial period where you can test it out prior to having a permanent implant placed. As an oupatient (usually in office) flouroscopically guided procedure under light sedation, we will put in a temporary stimulator that you can test out for an entire week under the direct care of a stimulator programming expert. During that week we can find out just how much relief a stimulator can provide you. 

If you would like evaluated for a possible spinal cord stimulator trial or if you have any pain that has been present for over 12 weeks that continues to limit your quality of life or function, ask your primary care provider to refer you to me for an evaluation. 

Author
Jason Herndon MD Double Board Certified Anesthesiologist and American College of Graduate Medical Education trained and Board Certified Pain Management Specialist

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