17 Oct Stand Up Straight with Spinal Cord Stimulation
In 1967, it was discovered that electrical stimulation applied to the nerves of the spinal column could help to reduce the pain felt by patients suffering from nerve pain along the spine. It worked by adjusting the nerve’s activity so the patient stopped receiving those pain signals from the damaged nerve.
Spinal cord stimulation has been helping tens-of-thousands of patients each year since the 1980s when it became a routine treatment for back, and neck pain caused by nerve damage. Over the years, the method of spinal cord stimulation has evolved, and remains a relevant procedure thirty years after it became a mainstay in the medical world.
How can spinal cord stimulation help you?
Spinal cord stimulation can act as a conservative treatment if you want to avoid surgery, and for seriously painful ailments, including injuries and illness related to nerves. It is a specific remedy for nerve damage, and can help with neuropathic pain. If you suffer from sciatica in the leg or arm, peripheral vascular disease, arachnoiditis, or a variety of other ailments, you may be a candidate for spinal cord stimulation. This is due to the nature of the treatment, which doesn’t correct issues – but modifies your body’s response to the pain signals associated with specific nerves.
By targeting precise areas that are causing pain, the electrostimulation of spinal cord stimulation not only modifies the directives of the nerve, but also allows for microcirculation – the circulation that takes place in the smaller blood vessels, helping to bring oxygen to the area.
What makes spinal cord stimulation work?
Modern spinal cord stimulation is made possible by a tiny device. It is permanently implanted into your back during a routine procedure, and a wire adorned in electrodes is placed along your spinal cord to carry the treatment’s electrical properties. The device that generates the electricity is controlled by a handheld remote, so you have full control over the treatment at all times. Some models offer rechargeable batteries, while others will need to be replaced with another procedure within five years. The systems can be programmed to offer specialized relief based on your unique needs.
What should you expect when you are a spinal cord stimulation candidate?
Before you commit to a permanent spinal cord stimulator, you will go through a test run to ensure efficacy. You’ll go to the clinic, where you’ll receive an epidural shot after the area is treated with a numbing agent. Then, the wires are delicately placed on the areas you feel pain. They’re attached to an out-of-body generator, so you can control your treatment. You’ll test the system for about a week, and then talk with your doctor about how effective it was at relieving your pain.
If you and your doctor decide to pursue a permanent spinal cord stimulator, you’ll undergo some physical test to ensure you’re healthy enough for surgery. When it’s time, you’ll be under anesthesia during your surgery for a couple of hours in order to place the wire leads in the correct spots. The doctor will wake you up after the unit is in place, to do a test run of your new equipment, before putting you under with anesthesia again and implanting the generator and finishing up the surgery. Due to the invasiveness of the procedure, you’ll want to leave yourself four to six weeks to recover.
Is spinal cord stimulation right for you? Contact your doctor today to find out.
Dr. Simon Thomas, MBBS, FRCA, FIPP, FFPMRCA. (2016, November 14). Spinal Cord Stimulation’s Role in Managing Chronic Disease Symptoms. International Neuromodulation Society. Retrieved from http://www.neuromodulation.com/spinal-cord-stimulation.
Neel Mehta, MD (2016, September 23). Who May Benefit from Spinal Cord Stimulation. Spine-health. Retrieved from https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/back-surgery/who-may-benefit-spinal-cord-stimulation.