Medical approaches to pain relief usually start with conservative efforts with the lowest impact on your body. If these solutions fail to provide relief, more aggressive treatments enter the picture. Typically, this means stronger medication with higher levels of side effects.
Sometimes, even these treatments fail. Back pain is a complex problem that sometimes persists even after the original injury heals, leaving behind a chronic pain condition that’s very hard to treat effectively. In this case, a spinal cord stimulator may come to the rescue.
As back pain experts, the Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center team regularly recommends spinal cord stimulators as a drug-free pain management alternative to treatment-resistant back pain.
A spinal cord stimulator modulates pain signals generated by target nerves using tiny electrical signals. Through a remote device, you can change how your stimulator works, allowing for personalized control. There’s a short period of adjustment after receiving your stimulator. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a spinal cord stimulator?
When you’ve got chronic back pain that fails to respond to treatments in any lasting way, we may recommend an implanted device called a spinal cord stimulator to give you control over the pain you feel, reducing or eliminating the need for pain medication.
The implant consists of thin electrodes placed near the nerve root that transmit pain signals to the brain and a small generator that creates the electrical impulses that disrupt pain messages to the brain. While designs vary between various styles and models of stimulators, the overall operation is similar.
The system includes a remote device for selecting preset pain relief modes and other features that may be available on your model.
How do I know the stimulator will work?
Before permanently implanting a stimulator system, we place temporary electrodes during a trial period, but the generator remains outside your body. This gives you a week or two to assess how well a spinal cord stimulator will work for you.
We may already know where the electrodes will work the best if you’ve had an epidural nerve block injection that temporarily controls your pain.
Adjusting to your new spinal cord stimulator
Since you have a trial period before the implant of a permanent stimulator system, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any surprises. There is a tuning process, though. The frequency and bandwidth of the modulating signal sometimes require adjustment to provide the best results.
You have control over your spinal cord stimulator system. This includes recharging components and activating the system to relieve pain. You’ll have several modes to choose from, each of which falls under controlled parameters, so there’s no worry about using your system too much or in a harmful way. We can fine-tune your program modes based on your feedback.
For the most part, you can live your life normally. Things like airport security equipment or strong power generators may affect your spinal cord stimulator, but you can avoid problems by temporarily switching your system off.
Medical procedures like radiation therapy or magnetic resonance imaging may pose a problem for those with spinal cord stimulators, so let all your health care providers know you have the implant.
Is spinal cord stimulation right for you? Contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center to find out more. You can schedule your appointment by phone or online. Book your visit today.