What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is a procedure wherein a medical device is inserted near the spinal cord. The spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is positioned strategically based on the true locus of chronic pain. When activated, the device delivers a low level of pulsed electrical signals to the affected parts of the spinal cord to block the pain signals from reaching the brain. As such, it interrupts the usual pathway of the electrical signals, desensitizing the patient.
The History Behind Spinal Cord Stimulation
The use of electrical stimulation for medical purposes dates back over 4,500 years. It’s assumed that ancient Egyptians often used electrogenic fish and eels to reduce the pain in various parts of the body. They’d place the fish at the site of pain, and the electrical discharge was supposed to reduce pain. Modern neurostimulation was first formulated in the 1960s, but it gained steam and came into widespread usage in 1989.
What Does Spinal Cord Stimulation Treat?
Spinal cord stimulation is mostly associated with chronic back pain relief, especially after all other pain relief techniques, including back surgery, fail. In the US, spinal cord stimulation is most commonly used after back surgery fails to yield the desired results. It’s estimated that approximately 40% of the patients continue experiencing chronic back pain to various degrees even after back surgery. And that’s precisely where spinal cord stimulation comes in.
The following is an overview of the conditions that spinal cord stimulation treatments:
- Failed or previous back surgeries with continued pain symptoms
- Arachnoiditis — inflammation of the membranes that protect the nerves
- Chronic neck pain and back pain
- Chronic burning sensation in the legs
- Chronic stinging sensation in the back
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Inoperable ischemic limb pain
- Multiple sclerosis
- Post-herpetic neuralgia (shingles)
- Intercostal neuralgia
- Phantom limb pain
Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulation
- Liberates patients from the need for painkillers.
- Totally reversible procedure because the spinal cord stimulator can be removed.
- Reduces chronic pain without narcotics, so there’s no risk of addiction.
- Minimal side effects and negligible risk of complications.
- Addresses the root cause of chronic pain.
- Provides long-term and lasting relief.
- Works when all other treatments, including surgeries, fail.