Are You a Candidate for a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

Are You a Candidate for a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator is a medical device that is surgically implanted to alter the pain signals that your spinal cord sends to your brain. The device interferes with pain signals from a single area of injury or from multiple areas. About 80% of patients say that their chronic pain is reduced by half after they receive a spinal cord stimulator. 

At Spectrum Pain Clinics in Jackson and Cordova, Tennessee, we always recommend noninvasive and supportive conventional therapies before surgery whenever possible. However, implanting a spinal cord stimulator under your skin is a relatively simple procedure — and you can try out the device before deciding to get a permanent one.

Are you a candidate for this state-of-the-art pain management device? Answer the following questions to help you and your health care team determine the answer.

Are you in chronic pain?

If you’ve recently suffered an injury or tissue damage in an accident, you’re experiencing acute pain. Ideally, with time, that pain diminishes or goes away as your body heals.

However, if you’ve been in continuous pain, and more than 12 weeks have passed since your original injury, you have chronic pain. Chronic pain affects more than 20% of women and men in the United States, and it can severely affect your quality of life. If you have chronic pain, you may be a candidate for a spinal cord stimulator.

Have conventional pain relief methods failed you?

If you still have pain despite steroid injections, trigger point injections, and other types of medications or therapies, you also may be a candidate. Although spinal cord stimulation doesn’t heal the underlying source of your pain, it does stop you from feeling pain or at least diminishes its intensity.

Even though your pain may originate from an imperfectly healed tear or fracture somewhere else in your body, all pain signals are first sent to the spinal cord before they reach your brain. When the pain signal is altered by a spinal cord stimulator, your brain no longer interprets it as intense pain. You may experience it as reduced pain or even a slight tingling sensation.

Are you at risk for opioid addiction?

A spinal cord stimulator may also be a good choice for you if you’re taking opioid medication to control your pain. Opioids have a high risk for addiction. 

If you’re in chronic pain and would like to start withdrawing from opioids or lower your dose, this device can help you do that. And if you have an opioid addiction, the pain relief you experience with a spinal cord stimulator can help lessen your dependence. 

Do you hurt in more than one place?

Although a spinal cord stimulator is effective at treating a single source of pain and its signals, one of its most remarkable qualities is that it can address pain signals from multiple parts of the body at once. It can even treat diffuse pain, such as pain from cancer.

In addition, our team has expertise in a form of nerve stimulation called dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation. Ganglia are clusters of nerves found outside of the brain and spinal cord; the ganglia associated with your spinal nerves are the dorsal root ganglia.

When we stimulate an appropriate DRG, the signal alleviates pain from a wide area. For instance, targeting just one could relieve pain from your trunk and your limbs. 

Are you willing to try it out?

Another advantage of a spinal cord stimulator is that you can give it a test drive before committing to surgical implantation of the stimulating device. The stimulator has three components:

In the trial phase, which usually lasts about a week, we insert the lead wires with electrodes into the nerves in your spinal cord. You’re awake during the procedure so that you can verify that their placement addresses your pain. However, we don’t yet implant the pulse generator. You wear it outside of your body on a special belt. You control the intensity of the signal with the remote controller. 

If you’re happy with the level of pain control during your trial, we schedule you for surgery to implant the generator under your skin, usually near your buttocks or abdomen. This part of the operation is performed in a hospital under general anesthesia. You need to allow about a month to fully return to normal activities.

To learn more about spinal cord stimulation and whether you’re a candidate for chronic pain relief through this remarkable device, contact the Spectrum Pain Clinics location nearest you today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Understanding Radiofrequency Ablation

If you’re looking for long-term relief for your chronic pain that doesn’t include opioids or other medications, radiofrequency (RF) ablation could be right for you. RF ablation targets pain at its source — and turns it off.

Supporting a Loved One With a Mental Illness

We know it may feel overwhelming to learn that someone you love has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The good news is that you and your loved one have options available. Most mental health disorders are treatable.

How to Find Mental Health Counseling

Researching how to find mental health counseling can feel intimidating if you’ve never sought out treatment before. Perhaps you’ve been feeling “off” for a while.