Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a neuromodulation procedure that manages pain signals through the insertion of a small device into the spine. It aims to interrupt pain signals caused by chronic pain conditions, such as failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and peripheral neuropathy.
This procedure involves the placement of thin wires, known as leads, near your spinal cord, which are connected to a small generator device implanted under your skin. By doing so, electrical pulses can be delivered into the spinal cord, interrupting the pain signals sent to the brain.
Compared to other pain management procedures, SCS does not alter the anatomy of the spine and is entirely reversible. Besides, its non-invasive approach reduces the potential side effects and the need for opioid medication.
If you’d like to learn more about spinal cord stimulation and all the other neuromodulation procedures available at Spinal Diagnostics, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Spinal cord stimulation significantly helps manage multiple chronic pain conditions, including:
- Failed back surgery syndrome: Some of the causes that could lead to its development include nerve damage during the surgery, post-procedure infections, or pre-existing conditions.
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS): It is a chronic condition usually caused by an injury followed by abnormal and prolonged pain that may also include other signs like swelling, mobility limitations, sweating, and skin color or temperature changes.
- Peripheral neuropathy: Peripheral neuropathy affects the peripheral nerves located in the brain and spinal cord. These are in charge of transmitting signals from the nervous system to the body, allowing your limbs to have proper movement and balance.
These are some of the benefits spinal cord stimulation poses over traditional surgical procedures:
- Non-destructive: Unlike surgical procedures that permanently alter the anatomy, SCS is reversible and adjustable.
- Drug-free approach: SCS offers a drug-free alternative to manage chronic pain. This helps reduce potential side effects or risks.
- Customizable: Depending on your specific case and your needs, the electrical pulses' intensity and location can be adjusted.
- Minimally invasive: The implantation of SCS devices disrupts the nerves and your spinal anatomy only minimally, leading to a faster recovery from the procedure.
To start a spinal cord stimulation procedure, you must undergo a trial process to determine whether this is the best treatment for your chronic pain case. Your doctor will recommend a trial if:
- You have suffered from debilitating pain for more than three months
- You have tried conservative treatments without successful results
- You are looking for an alternative to surgical procedures
- You don’t have a medical condition that could interfere with the implantation of the spinal cord stimulation device
If you are interested in knowing more about the trial process and if the procedure is suitable for you, contact us or schedule an appointment online.
The Trial Period
The trial period helps to determine if your pain is relieved with spinal cord stimulation. During your trial, your doctor places the wires along your spine, but you’ll wear the generator around your waist.
After a week of using the spinal cord stimulator, you’ll know if it provides enough relief to implant the generator. If it doesn’t help, your doctor at Spinal Diagnostics can easily remove the wires and assess you to find the best treatment plan for your case.
Before the Procedure
Before your spinal cord stimulation procedure, you must provide your doctor with relevant information regarding your medical history, including any medications you may be taking, allergies, or medical conditions. This helps to ensure safety and optimal recovery during the treatment process.
The trial will be performed after assessing your information and symptoms.
During the Procedure
The spinal cord stimulation procedure follows these steps:
- Anesthesia: Your doctor will apply local anesthesia to numb the area where the incision will be made and the leads placed.
- Digital guidance: By using X-rays, your doctor will ensure the leads are carefully inserted through the made incision.
- Generator implantation: Once the leads are in place, a small generator device will be implanted under your skin, usually in the buttock or abdomen area. This generator powers the electrical pulses delivered to the spinal cord.
- Incision closure: After correctly placing the leads and generator, the incision will be closed with sutures or medical adhesive.
Procedure Recovery and Follow-Up
The SCS device implantation is usually performed in under an hour. It is performed as an outpatient procedure, so you can return home on the same day. Your doctor will provide post-operative instructions on cleaning and caring for the incision site and managing any mild discomfort that may appear over the following days.
It is recommended you avoid extenuating activities during recovery since this could alter the functioning of your SCS. Besides, regular follow-up appointments will be scheduled to monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments.
The side effects that may arise due to spinal cord stimulation are usually temporary and do not need medical attention. This may include mild soreness, bruising, or a temporary increase in pain.
It is also possible that stimulation-related effects appear, such as a buzzing sensation or muscle twitches. These can be easily managed by adjusting the device with the help of your doctor.
Although rare, some potential risks and side effects associated with facet joint injections can include the following:
- Injection site infection: Some of the most common signs of this side effect include redness, swelling, or constant drainage.
- Nerve damage: Some symptoms of this complication include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the legs or spine.
- Allergic reactions: Difficulty breathing and swelling may indicate an allergic reaction.