Is a spinal cord stimulator the answer to getting your active lifestyle back?

March 8, 2020

a doctor pointing to the location of the pain in an image of the patients spine When it comes to chronic pain, we have a variety of treatment options, but our goal is usually management rather than finding a cure. One option that has provided excellent results for many of our patients is spinal cord stimulation, a treatment that may help if you are suffering from chronic pain.

In short, spinal cord stimulation, also known as neurostimulation, sends mild electrical impulses to disrupt the pain messages sent to the brain. We implant a small device near the spine to control these impulses. 

Let’s look more closely at why this might be an option for you, what the procedure involves, and what recovery is typically like.

Why you might need spinal stimulation

We often use spinal stimulation to treat failed back surgery syndrome. Failed back surgery syndrome is a general condition that refers to chronic pain that persists in the back, neck, or arm after one or two back surgeries.

There are other conditions spinal cord stimulation may treat as well, such as chronic neck and back pain and arachnoiditis, an extremely painful condition that causes inflammation of the protective layers of the spinal nerves. Complex regional pain syndrome and peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes burning leg pain as the nerves die off, are also conditions that spinal stimulation can treat.

Your doctor at Southside Pain Specialists will help determine if spinal stimulation is the proper treatment for the type of pain you’re experiencing. 

We will go through a two-step process to determine if spinal treatment is warranted. The first step requires a thorough evaluation of your medical condition and the location and intensity of the pain you’re experiencing. We complete a trial using spinal stimulation to see if it helps significantly reduce or eliminate the pain you’re experiencing. A 50 percent reduction in pain is considered enough to move forward with a permanent implant.

Next, we insert a permanent implant during the outpatient procedure that typically takes 1 to 3 hours. Once implanted, the device sends electrical currents to your spine, enabling your brain to manage its reaction to chronic pain. You will need to charge the device since you wear it continuously. 

Recovery after spinal cord stimulator implantation

Your recovery will depend on several factors, including your age, past surgeries, and health habits. Even though it is a quick procedure, there is a significant recovery time of six to eight weeks. During this time, it is vital that you listen to your body and go at a slower pace than usual. Do not try to lift heavy objects, bend, or twist for at least six weeks. 

However, it is important that you stay as active as possible. Get out of the house and resume as many daily activities as you can. If you are used to taking walks, riding bikes, or going to outdoor activities such as sports games, try to continue doing these things.

Living with a spinal cord stimulator

While a spinal cord stimulator can provide significant relief from chronic pain, living with any kind of implant can be a challenge. Here are some things to remember:

  • Make sure your device is insured in the event it needs to be repaired or replaced.
  • If your device isn’t working properly, replace it as soon as possible.
  • Keep all of your therapy appointments.
  • Therapy, combined with a stimulator, is often a very successful treatment.
  • Pain can sometimes linger, even after implantation.

It will take a while to get used to living with a spinal cord stimulator, but it can help you live a fully functional life. Your doctor is the best resource for knowing how you can help your body heal. Always follow our instructions and keep all of your scheduled appointments during this recovery period.

Southside Pain Specialists can provide you with the right spinal cord stimulation for your case. We will assist you in everything from determining if this is the right option for you, to completing the procedure, and then following along through your therapy and recovery. Talk to one of our specialists and visit for a personal consultation today.