Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulation
Relieves Chronic Back, Leg and Arm Pain
By blocking pain signals from reaching your brain, a spinal cord stimulator can relieve chronic pain symptoms.
Reduces the Need for Medications
By reducing the intensity of your pain, a spinal cord stimulator can also reduce your need for pain medication.
Improves Quality of Life
Spinal cord stimulation can greatly improve your overall quality of life by lessening pain, helping you sleep and allowing you to get back to your daily activities.
What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
The body transmits nerve signals to your brain constantly. Under normal circumstances, this is essential for avoiding injury and making you aware that something isn’t right. When the nerves are damaged, however, they can send pain signals to the brain even when an injury isn’t happening, leading to chronic pain that lasts long after it should.
A spinal cord stimulator is a small electrical device that aims to disrupt this cycle. It’s implanted in the body and delivers electrical pulses to a specific point on the spinal cord, similar to how a cardiac pacemaker sends electrical impulses to the heart. This stops the pain signals that are being sent from the spine and/or extremities before they reach the brain. Spinal cord stimulation is often used for patients who suffer from chronic back, leg and arm pain that hasn’t been alleviated with other treatments, including spinal surgeries.
Does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Eliminate Pain Completely?
A spinal cord stimulator can’t eliminate the source of your pain. Instead, it prevents your body from sending pain signals to your brain, which dramatically reduces its intensity.
The Spinal Cord Stimulation Procedure
The spinal cord stimulation procedure involves two steps:
The process starts with a stimulator trial period. This lets our Long Island spine surgeon, Dr. Choi, ensure the device will work for your pain.
Dr. Choi numbs the treatment area with local anesthesia. He then uses an x-ray as a guide to insert the trial stimulator into the area between your spinal cord and vertebrae, known as the epidural space. He attaches the stimulator’s wires to a device that you wear externally over a belt.
The trial placement is an outpatient procedure. You’ll be able to go home afterwards and return to your normal routine later in the day. Dr. Choi will have you keep a journal to log the level of pain relief you experience over the next several days.
If your trial goes well, the next step is implanting your permanent spinal cord stimulator. You’ll receive local anesthesia and sedation for the procedure. While most of the procedure will be done while you’re under deeper sedation, you’ll be under light sedation when Dr. Choi tests the device to make sure it is working properly.
During the procedure, Dr. Choi makes a small incision in the middle of your back. He inserts the electrode leads and tests that they’re successfully blocking the areas of pain. If they are, he secures them in the epidural space using sutures.
Next, in order to make room for the stimulator battery to be inserted below your skin, Dr. Choi makes another small incision on your abdomen, along your belt line. He places the battery in the space and tunnels the lead wires from your spine to the battery and connects the system. Finally, Dr. Choi tests the stimulator and closes the incisions.
Am I a Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?
When you visit Spine Medicine & Surgery of Long Island, Dr. Choi will assess your imaging studies and perform a thorough physical exam. He’ll talk with you about your concerns, health history and the treatments you’ve tried in the past. He’ll also answer any questions you have. This will help him determine if spinal cord stimulation is right for you.
While every patient is unique, those with chronic back, leg and arm pain who haven’t experienced sufficient pain relief with conservative treatments, medication and prior surgeries tend to be the best candidates for the therapy. To schedule your consultation with Dr. Choi and find out if you could benefit from spinal cord stimulation in Long Island, call our practice at (631) 730-7970.