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Neurostimulation (also called spinal cord stimulation, or SCS) is a proven therapy that has been recommended by doctors to manage chronic pain and improve quality of life for over 40 years.
Neurostimulation systems are approved or cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the management of chronic pain in the back, neck, arms, or legs.
A power source (the pulse generator) is attached to electrical lead(s) to stimulate the nerves transmitting the pain signals. The stimulation effectively changes the pain messages and replaces the pain with a more pleasant paresthesia sensations.
According to the "Gate-Control Theory," activating large, myelinated afferent nerve fibers will inhibit
transmission in the small unmyelinated afferent nerves that transmit the pain signal. Recent studies have shown an increase in blood flow and natural endorphins as well as positive changes at the cellular level of the nerves and/or spinal cord with neurostimulation.
The current techniques for SCS and PNS are minimally invasive. Electrodes can generally be placed during an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia and sedation.
The first step is a trial of the system with percutaneous lead placement.
No incision is necessary and the procedure is performed with only local anesthesia. The purpose of the trial is to determine whether neurostimulation both alleviates the patient’s pain and improves the quality of life. If the temporary placement of the stimulation system provides greater than 50 percent relief, then permanent placement may be warranted.
Spinal Cord Stimulators help a broad spectrum of chronic pain syndromes including:
Low Back Pain and Sciatica
Neck Pain and Cervical Radiculopathy
Occipital Neuralgia and Migraine Headaches
Abdominal Pelvic Pain such as Chronic Pancreatitis and Interstitial Cystitis
Peripheral Vascular Disease and Raynaud’s.
They can provide pain or symptom relief when everything else fails
The procedure is reversible.
No medications are used.
No systemic side effects.
The trial is no more invasive than a typical spinal or peripheral injection.
Neurostimulators are generally quite safe and complications are rare, but as with ANY procedure there are always risks. Some of them include:
Damage to Nerves
Spinal Fluid Leaks
Scar Tissue Formation (Fibrosis) around the electrode
Pain moving beyond the reach of the stimulator
Breakage of the electrode or hardware failure
Development of tolerance to the stimulation-- making it less effective