Spinal Cord Stimulation Treatment Overview

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an advanced procedure that has evolved in clinical use since the late 1960’s. It involves the placement of programmable electrodes into the epidural space where they emit signals to the spinal cord to mask pain signals.

If your physician recommends spinal cord stimulation, you will first undergo a trial placement in an outpatient clinic setting. Electrodes will be placed with x-ray guidance and custom programmed to provide relief of your particular pain condition. Over the next 3-5 days you will be able to test the spinal cord stimulation system to see how much it relieves your pain and improves your function.

If the trial is successful, then you will be scheduled to undergo surgical implantation at an area hospital. The implantation is similar to that required for placement of a pace-maker and does not require an overnight stay in-hospital.

Conditions Treated with Spinal Cord Stimulation

  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS) , post-laminectomy pain
  • Neuropathic pain from diabetes or peripheral vascular disease
  • Neuralgia/Neuritis
  • Radicular pain syndrome or radiculopathies resulting in pain secondary to FBSS or herniated disk
  • Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD) / herniated disk pain refractory to conservative and surgical interventions
  • Epidural fibrosis
  • Arachnoiditis or lumbar adhesive arachnoiditis
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), or causalgia

Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulation Treatment

Published studies on spinal cord stimulation have shown that when used in properly selected patients it can offer the following benefits:

  • Effective: Spinal cord stimulation may provide significant and sustained reduction in spine and limb pain and hope for a better quality of life.
  • Safe: When used as directed, safety has been demonstrated in clinical trials over the last 35 years.
  • Predictable Success: A screening test allows the patient to experience spinal cord stimulation on a temporary basis to assess response before implantation.
  • Reduced Medication: Patients may be able to reduce oral pain medication doses and their associated side effects.
  • Reversible: Unlike some surgeries, spinal cord stimulation is reversible. The system can be turned off or surgically removed.
  • Programmable: Neurostimulators can be programmed to meet the specific needs of each individual patient. As pain patterns change, parameters can be adjusted to increase the effectiveness of the therapy

FAQs about Spinal Cord Stimulation Treatment

How long does a spinal cord stimulation trial placement take?

A spinal cord stimulation trial typically takes roughly 60 minutes total to include programming.

How does spinal cord stimulation work?

The spinal cord stimulator provides a signal to the spinal cord that competes with pain signals. In this way it blocks or masks the pain signals from being sent to your brain.

How long will the trial be?

Spinal cord stimulator trials usually last between 3 to 5 days. At the end of your trial you will be seen in clinic and the stimulator wires will be easily removed in an exam room – removal takes no more than a minute or two.

How will I feel during my trial?

Most patients describe a pleasant tingling in place of their usual pain. You may notice you require less pain medication or that you can walk further or sleep better.

My trial went well, what is my next step?

If your trial was a success, your physician will begin the process of scheduling you for outpatient surgery to have a system implanted.

Do I have to stop taking my pain medications for this procedure?

You are encouraged to continue taking your pain medications as prescribed.

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Pain management for failed back surgery syndrome, CRPS and RSD (or causalgia), neuralgia, and more.

Upper back pain icon for pain management