What Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

Some people spend a great deal of time in pain. Back pain, especially, can make it very difficult for people to maintain a high quality of life. The back is made up of some of the body’s largest muscles, so when there is an injury, it may never fully heal. When non-surgical options fail, and the pain becomes too severe, some doctors may recommend a spinal cord stimulator. Learn more about what this type of surgery means and how it might benefit those who need it most.

How a Spinal Cord Stimulator Works

A spinal cord stimulator consists of a few different parts. Electrodes are implanted between the vertebrae of the back. These are connected to a battery pack typically housed in the base of the back or the abdomen. The electrodes provide electrical impulses up and down the spinal cord that can block pain. The way this is accomplished is by numbing the pain receptors with the electrical impulses. A person with a spinal cord stimulator can use a remote to trigger the electrical intervention. 

The Types of Conditions It Treats

Chronic pain can be due to many conditions, and it happens anywhere in the body. The spine is the path between the brain and every other part of the body. When something in the body hurts, it means that a message has traveled from the body part to the brain, where it is processed as pain and then sent back down the spine to that localized area. However, when a cord stimulator disrupts these messages, the pain is temporarily stopped. The most common conditions treated in this way include:

  • Amputation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Nerve pain or neuropathy
  • Vascular disease
  • Heart pain

The Prognosis After Surgery

A patient will first get a trial period with the stimulator. The box will not be implanted, and only a few electrodes will be placed along the epidural space. The patient then gets to decide if the device works before the full procedure takes place. If the trial is satisfactory, then permanent electrodes are implanted, as is the battery pack. The entire process takes a couple of hours, and a patient may go home the same night. Full recovery takes about two weeks, as a back pain doctor like one at AmeriWell Clinics can explain. After that, the patient is cleared to return to normal activities.

Spinal cord stimulation is a fairly new procedure that is gaining in popularity in the medical community. The benefits of applying stimulation directly to the back can provide relief, so many people desperately need to enjoy life again.