Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an FDA-approved treatment for chronic back and limb pain. Designed for patients who have tried other therapies without success, SCS may help reduce or alleviate chronic discomfort in patients who qualify.

Patients who qualify for SCS may see a dramatic decrease in their pain, which could enable them to reduce the need for pain medication, get better sleep and improve their overall quality of life.

What Happens During SCS?

SCS is an outpatient procedure in which your physician will place soft wires into your back, near your spine, using a needle. Your physician will ensure you’re numbed with local anesthesia before the procedure so there will be minimal discomfort. For the actual device that transmits the electricity, you’ll need to have a small incision made. This is generally done on the abdomen or on the upper part of your buttock, just under the skin. The device won’t be visible from the outside.

This device, sometimes referred to as a generator, is programmable. You can control the strength of the electrical current with a remote, and even turn the device off and on. Your physician will work with you to program the device and coach you through adjusting the stimulation on your own to address your pain needs.

What Conditions Can SCS Treat?

Patients who have had an injury, failed surgery or inflammation that can’t be directly addressed or hasn’t responded to other therapies, such as medication, physical therapy or even surgery, may qualify for spinal cord stimulation.

SCS works by interfering with the brain’s ability to perceive pain. It does this by releasing a low electrical current into the spine, which prevents neurotransmitters that transmit pain signals from reaching the brain. The result is that instead of feeling pain, you feel a mild sensation where the pain used to be.

Spinal cord stimulation may specifically help:

  • Back pain.
  • Nerve pain, such as cancer-related pain or pain from diabetic neuropathy.
  • Complex regional pain syndrome.
  • Pain that lingers after an amputation.

To determine if your condition would potentially benefit from SCS, your doctor at your pain management clinic will need to perform a trial test. This involves your physician inserting temporary wires into your body to see if you benefit from neurostimulation. While the wires will be placed inside your body, the generator will stay outside during this trial period.

Patients that experience at least a 50% reduction in their pain are considered candidates for SCS. You and your physician can discuss implanting a permanent surgical device if you want to move forward.

Important Things to Keep in Mind

Spinal cord stimulation may help patients suffering from chronic discomfort, but it’s important to note that this form of treatment is often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment for the most success, such as a combination of physical therapy, SCS, medication and exercise.

It’s also important to note that while you can usually get X-rays and CT scans with your SCS device, you will not be able to get an MRI. While some MRI machines are compatible with SCS devices, the majority are not, so you’ll need to be mindful of this.

Make an Appointment at Our Pain Management Clinic

Are you suffering from chronic back, limb or nerve discomfort as a result an injury, failed surgery or another issue that hasn’t responded to other therapies? If so, SCS could be an option for you. Contact our pain management clinic today to learn more about SCS with one of our board-certified physicians. Call Summit Spine & Joint Centers at (770) 962-3642 or contact us online!