What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation and Is It Right for You?

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What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation and Is It Right for You?

While pain is normally a process that helps protect you from injury or warn you of illness, the complexity of the nervous system sometimes produces pain that doesn’t provide useful information about your condition. This pain can endure without a reason or purpose. 

Chronic pain is a challenging condition to treat. Its origins can sometimes be difficult to trace, or it may start from a degenerative condition like osteoarthritis, which can cause irreversible damage. 

The team at Advanced Pain Management in Castro Valley, California, provides treatment for chronic pain with customized plans based around your lifestyle and the demands of your condition. We can also minimize the use of pain medication to limit side effects. 

When it comes to chronic back pain, we may recommend spinal cord stimulation as a treatment alternative. Is it right for you?

Pain and the nervous system

When pain becomes chronic, it can change the way your brain works. Pain can trigger the stress cycle, introducing physical changes that work against your health. Your pain might hurt worse, or you may start to feel pain for healed conditions or for things that shouldn’t hurt. Pain impulses may be constant or random. 

While there are plenty of treatment modalities for pain, these can sometimes provide too little relief or even fail outright. One intervention that can help when you’re struggling through treatment-resistant pain is spinal cord stimulation, a neuromodulation technique that alters pain signals before they reach your brain. 

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS)

When medications, physical therapy, and other conservative treatments fail to significantly reduce pain, alone or in combination, it’s necessary to pursue more aggressive strategies. Stronger medications or higher doses might mean an increased risk of side effects, such as drug dependency or addiction in the case of opiates. 

Spinal cord stimulation provides an intermediate step between conservative therapy and surgery. An SCS system modulates, or changes, the pain signals sent to your brain. 

How spinal cord stimulation works

Your nervous system works on tiny electrical charges, the signals that invoke movement, manage automatic systems in your body, and report sensations like touch and pain. When you feel pain, a signal travels through a nerve to the brain, where it’s interpreted into the sensation you feel. 

A spinal cord stimulator system has three basic components. While there are different types of SCS products, each works in a similar way. 

  • Electrodes: tiny wires that sit close to a target nerve between the spinal cord and vertebrae
  • Generator: an implanted device that creates gentle electrical signals
  • Remote: the external controller for your SCS system 

When operating, the SCS creates a signal that you might feel as a light tingling sensation, if you feel it at all. This signal masks the pain signal you normally feel, drowning out your usual pain sensation. 

Am I a candidate for spinal cord stimulation? 

SCS may be right for you if you have: 

  • Uncontrolled pain because conservative treatments no longer work
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Ischemic pain after a stroke
  • Pain related to nerve damage (neuropathy) 

Contact Advanced Pain Management by phone or online to find out more about spinal cord stimulation and whether it might be right for you. Book your appointment today.