Chronic back pain—generally defined as pain that lasts 12 weeks or more — is one of the leading causes of disability and lost time at work in the United States. Chronic low back pain is often linked to a lower perceived quality of life in affected patients. Diagnosis and treatment of back pain is complex and sometimes difficult. Back pain can be caused by a number of conditions and injuries and can plague individuals long after an injury has healed or a condition has been treated.
For patients experiencing chronic back pain that has not responded to traditional treatment options, like anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, home exercises, rest, or even surgery, a spinal cord stimulator trial may be an effective solution. Spinal cord stimulation treatment is also an option for several other chronic pain conditions, not just low back pain. Our providers at Louisiana Pain Specialists are proud to offer spinal cord stimulation as a treatment option for patients whose pain is not managed by traditional therapies.
What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is a minimally-invasive procedure that implants a neuromodulation device (pulse generator) in the spine of a person experiencing chronic back pain. The device is controlled by the patient, who uses a remote control to trigger the release of tiny electrical pulses when he or she experiences back pain. These electrical signals stimulate the nerves in the spine, interrupting the pain signals those nerves are sending to the brain. Spinal cord stimulation has been used for over 40 years in treating chronic back pain.
Which Pain Conditions Can Be Treated With a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
A number of conditions cause pain that is non-responsive to traditional pain treatments. Failed back surgical syndrome, neuropathy, stump pain, and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) are among some of the conditions that have been successfully treated with spinal cord stimulators. In these cases, spinal cord stimulation may provide an exceptional level of pain relief and may allow patients to reduce the amount of pain medication they need to manage their symptoms.
What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial?
Before a patient can receive a spinal cord stimulator implant–a permanent implant in the spinal canal–he or she must undergo a spinal cord stimulator trial, or “test drive”, which typically lasts from 5-7 days. The trial phase is extremely important, as it will allow your pain management provider to determine how effective spinal cord stimulation is in relieving your pain. For the trial, a minor procedure will be performed to place the leads in the candidate’s back. Leads are positioned using a small needle. They are then connected to an external pulse generator that is worn on a belt for 5-7 days. During this period, the system’s programs are adjusted and fine-tuned to best alleviate the patient’s pain. After this period the candidate will report to the doctor how much pain relief was felt. If a patient experiences a significant reduction in pain and were able to complete daily activities more easily, they are likely a good candidate for a spinal cord stimulator implant.
Permanent Implantation of a Spinal Cord Stimulator After Successful Trial
If a patient has undergone a successful spinal cord stimulator trial, they may elect to receive a permanent implanted device. Our providers at Louisiana Pain Specialists are highly trained and skilled at performing this implantation procedure.