Living with chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life from your career to your sleep to your ability to enjoy your favorite hobbies. Studies show that chronic pain also affects your social relationships and family life. Even if your chronic back pain hasn’t responded to nonsurgical treatments, you’re not out of pain relief options.
At Performance Pain and Sports Medicine our team of triple- and quadruple-board-certified doctors specialize in interventional pain management. From our six facilities located in three states, we approach hard-to-treat conditions and nerve pain with comprehensive and compassionate care. If chronic back pain is ruling your life, we may explore the possibility of a spinal cord stimulator for you.
Each year, over 34,000 individuals around the globe receive spinal cord stimulators. Could you be one of the 34,000 who find the solution for pain relief in a spinal cord stimulator? Here’s what you need to know.
Before we dive into how spinal cord stimulators work, it’s important to know the biology of pain — why you feel pain. By the time you feel pain, your nerves and your brain have already been in communication. First, your nerves detect a problem. Whether you stub your toe, sprain your neck, or injure your back, your nerves detect tissue damage. This type of pain is called nociceptive pain because the nociceptors in your nerves detect an outside stimulus such as heat from a hot pan, pressure, a pinch, a bug sting, etc.
Sometimes pain can develop even if there’s no outside stimulus. If your nerves are damaged or not working properly, you might experience what’s called neuropathic pain.
Regardless of the cause, a warning message of pain is sent to your brain. Your brain then decides your next course of action. This entire “conversation” between the nerves and brain seems almost instant.
A spinal cord stimulator provides pain relief by interrupting the conversation between the brain and nerves. A spinal cord stimulator is an implantable device, and it provides pain relief through the concept of neuromodulation. The device consists of:
The electrodes are placed carefully in a specific area. According to John Hopkins University, the electrodes are placed in the epidural space, which is a space between your vertebrae and spinal cord. When the battery pack is turned on, the electrodes can generate low level electric currents. When the nerves (nociceptors) try to send a pain message to the brain, the electric currents interfere with those messages. In a sense, the pain messages never get delivered to your brain, so instead of feeling pain, you might feel a little tingle — or even nothing at all. This is neuromodulation — altering the nerve activity.
In other words, the spinal cord stimulator won’t undo the damage or erase the root cause of your pain. However, it will alter the way your brain perceives pain, allowing you to regain control of your life again.
If you’ve tried to manage pain with conservative treatments but just can’t find relief, it’s worth exploring spinal cord stimulators. These devices can help alleviate chronic back pain associated with:
Before you commit to the spinal cord stimulator, you can experience the device through a trial period. A trial spinal cord stimulator is just a temporary device inserted with the guidance of a fluoroscopy (a special type of X-ray). Your trial spinal cord stimulator is marked as a success if you experience 50% (or more) reduction in your pain, according to John Hopkins University.
If you find pain relief during your trial, one of our skilled doctors may suggest the permanent implant. The procedure doesn’t require a long hospital stay. At Performance Pain and Sports Medicine, receiving a spinal cord stimulator requires only local anesthesia during your outpatient procedure.
If you’re unhappy with chronic back pain, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are conveniently located in six cities throughout three states. To see if a spinal cord stimulator is the right solution for you, schedule a consultation at one of our clinics by calling or booking an appointment online today.