According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic pain affects 50 million people in the United States. Nearly 20 million of these chronic pain sufferers say that pain interferes with their daily activities.
Chronic pain is ongoing and typically lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can include headaches, nerve pain, and back pain. Chronic pain is also associated with a number of medical conditions.
There are many treatment options available for chronic pain. Spinal cord stimulation is one such type of treatment. If you would like to know more about this treatment for chronic pain, here are the answers to five frequently asked questions about spinal cord stimulation.
1. What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is a neurostimulation therapy that involves the implantation of a small device in the body. The device is similar to a pacemaker and is surgically placed just under the skin. The spinal cord stimulator device sends electrical pulses to the spinal cord. These electrical pulses prevent the brain from receiving pain signals.
There are different kinds of spinal cord stimulator devices. However, all of them consist of these three parts:
- A pulse generator that contains a battery, which typically requires replacement every 2 to 5 years.
- A lead wire that contains between 8 and 32 electrodes.
- A handheld controller that allows the user to adjust the device and turn it on and off.
All three parts of a spinal cord stimulator device work together to help manage pain. It should be noted that spinal cord stimulation will not get rid of the pain completely. The goal is to reduce chronic pain by 50 to 70 percent.
2. Who Can Receive Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Not everyone who suffers with chronic pain is a candidate for spinal cord stimulation. People who are advised not to receive spinal cord stimulation include those who have a demand cardiac pacemaker or who have an untreated bleeding disorder.
Spinal cord stimulation is also not recommended for those who have a psychiatric condition that could be adding to the pain, or who have an untreated drug addiction. Smokers may not be able to receive spinal cord stimulation until they have quit smoking.
All candidates must undergo an evaluation of their physical and mental health. Their current medications, pain history, and pain management goals will be considered as well. Most candidates will have had debilitating pain for more than three months in their lower back, leg, or arm.
In most cases, candidates will also have tried other therapies or surgeries that failed to treat their pain.
3. What Types of Chronic Pain Does Spinal Cord Stimulation Treat?
Failed back surgery syndrome is a common condition that spinal cord stimulation can treat. This condition occurs when a back or neck surgery has failed to reduce chronic pain in the lower back, leg pain caused by sciatica, or pain in the arm caused by cervical radiculopathy.
Spinal cord stimulation can also help to decrease chronic pain caused by the following conditions:
- Complex regional pain syndrome. Chronic pain that affects an arm or leg and that develops after an injury, surgery, or stroke.
- Peripheral neuropathy. Pain in the hands and feet caused by nerve damage.
- Peripheral vascular disease. Pain in the legs that is caused by poor blood circulation.
- Arachnoiditis. Pain caused by an inflamed arachnoid, which is a membrane that protects the nerves of the spinal cord.
Spinal cord stimulation also helps alleviate pain associated with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries.
Patients considering spinal cord stimulation should know that this treatment will not cure any medical condition. The therapy will only reduce pain that is caused by a condition, or associated with it. Spinal cord stimulation is the most effective in the earliest stages of chronic pain.
4. What Are the Risks Associated with Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation does not work for everyone. Also, as with any type of surgery, there are risks associated with the implantation of a spinal cord stimulator device. Some of these risks include infection, bleeding, and negative reactions to the anesthesia. Also, an inaccurately placed device’s lead could result in a hematoma or spinal cord compression.
Other risks of spinal cord stimulation include:
- Battery failure
- Cerebrospinal fluid leak
- Pain at the stimulator site
Allergic reaction to the device’s materials
If the device’s lead moves or breaks, or the device fails, an additional surgery may be necessary.
5. Who Can I Contact for Spinal Cord Stimulation Treatment?
If you suffer with chronic pain and would like to see if you are a candidate for spinal cord stimulation, contact SW Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates. Our pain specialist will help you determine if this treatment is right for you. We look forward to speaking with you soon about your treatment needs.