How Does A Spinal Cord Stimulator Work?

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal Cord Stimulation is a well-established pain treatment that has been used in the U.S. for over 30 years, and is proven to provide patients superior relief. When nonsurgical options have failed to help relieve pain, a spinal cord stimulator may be an option.

Imagine relieving pain with the touch of a button. Spinal cord stimulators are controlled by the patient with a remote control. When pushed, electrical signals are sent to the spinal cord in order to alter pain signals to the brain. The electrical pulses are delivered by small electrodes on leads that are inserted near the spinal cord. These leads are connected to a compact, battery-powered generator implanted under the skin during a minimally invasive procedure. SCS is a reversible therapy that has helped hundreds of thousands of people experience relief from chronic pain, most commonly, severe pain in the low back and lower extremities.

Spinal Cord Stimulation can be used to treat or manage various types of chronic pain, including:

  • Back pain
  • Post-surgical pain
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Heart pain
  • Injuries to the spinal cord
  • Nerve-related pain
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Pain after an amputation
  • Visceral abdominal pain and perineal pain

If a patient is a candidate for SCS, the first procedure will be to insert one or more insulated wire leads through an epidural needle or through a small incision into the space surrounding the spinal cord, called the epidural space. Electrodes at the end of the lead produce electrical pulses that stimulate the nerves, blocking pain signals. The patient gives feedback to help the physician determine where to place the stimulators to best block the patient’s pain. The leads are connected to an external trial stimulator, which will be used for approximately one week to determine if SCS will help the patient. If the patient and physician determine that the amount of pain relief is acceptable, the system may be permanently implanted. At the end of the trial implantation, the leads are removed.

The following video will describe the procedure in more detail.