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Spinal Cord Stimulation

What’s involved in spinal cord stimulation?

During spinal cord stimulation, the physician places electrodes in the epidural space of the spine near the source of pain. The electrodes are attached to a generator—similar to a pacemaker—that delivers mild electrical current to the spinal cord to alleviate symptoms.

The spinal cord stimulator is controlled with a special remote which the person uses to activate the generator to deliver the electrical current when the person experiences pain.

How does it work?

Researchers are still investigating how spinal cord stimulation works. They theorize that the pain device may either alter pain signals in the brain or replace the pain sensation with a slight tingling sensation.

Spinal cord stimulation, medicolegal implications

Spinal cord stimulation is a non-surgical pain management treatment. The spinal cord stimulator is a neuromodulation device that uses mild electrical currents to modify pain signals and reduce discomfort. Dr. Singla consults with attorneys about spinal cord stimulation procedures and their efficacy in treating pain from a medical condition. This is not a plaintiff or defense question.

Is spinal cord stimulation more effective than other procedures to reduce pain?

Pain is subjective. As a result, procedures that are effective for one person may be ineffective for another. Also, the duration of relief varies depending on the procedure or treatment, from hours to months.

Who is qualified to determine if a spinal cord stimulator is the right course?

In addition to spinal cord stimulation, and the implantation procedure, a physician Board-Certified in Pain Medicine is trained in other types of fluoroscopically guided pain procedures.  For example, epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, facet blocks, and radiofrequency ablation.

Who is a candidate for spinal cord stimulation?

An individual may be a candidate for spinal cord stimulation if more conservative interventions fail to alleviate a chronic pain condition, such as physical therapy, oral medication, or injections.

Some of the pain conditions that benefit from spinal cord stimulation include:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Nerve-related pain
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Spinal cord injuries

Before recommending spinal cord stimulation, a comprehensive medical evaluation is conducted to determine if the device is an appropriate treatment.