What is Spinal Cord Stimulation as a Treatment for Pain?

Category: Blog

The use of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) for pain has a long history. With time, the equipment has gotten better and the treatment has become more effective. Spinal cord stimulation is used extensively by the armed forces for war injuries. This is an effective method of pain control for both back and leg pain of any origin. It is used for back pain without leg pain, leg pain of any cause without back pain, or in patients with both. Any patient with back or leg pain of any cause is a candidate. It is used when other procedures have failed or medication is not effective in relieving pain.

What is a spinal cord stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator is a device that has two parts. One part is the leads that are placed in the epidural space, which is the space where medication is placed with an epidural injection. The second part is the battery and waveform generator. The battery has to be replaced every seven to ten years. The leads stay in until removed.

How does it work for pain?

There are two phases in treating pain with spinal cord stimulation. The first is a trial period of one week where the leads are implanted on a temporary basis, but the battery is not. The patient has wires coming out of the skin that are attached to a trial simulator, which functions like the implanted battery. The patient can increase or decrease the stimulation, change programs, or even turn it off if it is bothersome for certain activities. After the one-week trial, the stimulator leads are removed. If the patient gets good results, a permanent stimulator is scheduled for implant.

The leads are placed using a needle under x-ray guidance, so you will be required to lie face down during the procedure.

After the procedure, you will be asked not to do excessive bending or twisting. The dressing during the trial must be kept dry. Most patients experience pain relief the same day or the next day after the procedure.

All insurance companies require a psychological evaluation before they will authorize the trial. This is to be sure there are no psychological problems that are severe enough to prevent the patient form getting relief from the stimulator.

Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulation

  • Limited to no side effects
  • Reversible
  • Minimally invasive
  • Adjustable pain relief
  • Targeted pain relief


Do you think you could benefit from spinal cord stimulation for pain? Give us a call today to schedule an appointment at (317) 794-2759!