Patients who experience chronic back pain may benefit from spinal cord stimulation, or SCS. Using a pulse generator that is implanted directly into the spines epidural space, a patient may achieve a permanent or semi-permanent solution to back pain that may not have been successfully alleviated by other forms of treatment.
What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is the administration of electrical pulses within the spinal cord for the purpose of interrupting pain signals that are sent by the surrounding nerves. These electrical impulses are delivered via a small generator that is implanted beneath the skin of the abdomen.
Under the control of the patient, the battery-operated generator sends pulses through small wires that lead to the spinal canal. The pulses are designed to reduce or eliminate pain, and instead deliver a slight tingling sensation that most patients consider highly tolerable. Patients control the generator via a remote control, which provides instant pain relief when needed.
Although implanting a pulse generator and wires into the abdomen and spinal canal may sound invasive, the process is actually an outpatient procedure that requires only a very small incision. Prior to implanting a spinal cord stimulator, a trial device is implanted within the skin to determine the devices effectiveness for each patient. Results vary from person to person, and most SCS generators require replacement batteries every few years.