Spinal cord stimulation is a treatment option for conditions such as failed back surgery, neuropathy, chronic nerve disorders, degenerative disc disease, and complex regional pain syndrome. In general, it is utilized in patients who have chronic and debilitating pain.
Spinal cord stimulation works by sending electrical impulses to your spinal cord through insulated wires (leads). These leads interrupt pain signals that are sent to your brain and instead provide a minor tingling sensation. You can use a handheld device to adjust your personal level of pain relief after you have had your leads placed.
In many cases, a trial lead is placed first to make sure that the treatment option is effective. A trial lead is used for about one week. It is placed by implanting a stimulator device under your skin with insulated wires in the epidural space. The leads can easily be removed if the trial stimulation is not successful. If it is successful, you can receive a permanent lead. The two procedures are very similar, but the permanent approach involves a few extra incisions to permanently place the stimulator. A local anesthetic is used for both procedures.
The slight discomfort from the incisions goes away after a few days, and it doesn’t take long to be able to resume regular activities. The majority of patients experience a decrease in pain with spinal cord stimulation, and the rechargeable battery that is used in the device lasts for several years.