Learn How Spinal Cord Stimulators Provide Pain Relief After Failed Back Surgery

Premier Spine & Pain Management, SCS, Spinal Cord Stimulators, Pain Relief, Failed Back Surgery

Chronic back pain can be a tremendous disruption to men and women who are affected by it. While virtually everyone experiences back pain at some point, most episodes resolve themselves with rest and time. But chronic sufferers can experience pain that lasts months or even years. Back surgery is often a last resort in the battle to relieve pain and improve function.

However, surgery is by no means a sure thing when it comes to fixing the cause of back pain. In fact, persistent pain after back surgery is so prevalent that it has its own name: failed back surgery syndrome. While further surgery remains an option, spinal cord stimulation may be a safer way to reduce or eliminate lingering back pain.

How pathological pain is different

The complexity of the human nervous system is such that chronic pain can be present when there’s no observable reason for it. Sometimes, chronic back pain that doesn’t respond to a range of treatments isn’t protective pain. It’s not warning you of physical damage, and there’s no ongoing injury to account for it. Instead of pain as a symptom, pain itself is the condition, and it’s called pathological pain in medical terms.

How spinal cord stimulation works

Since nerves in your lower back continue to transmit pain signals to your brain, spinal cord stimulation is a therapy that changes the nature of those signals to reduce or eliminate pathological pain. This is done by sending low-voltage electrical currents to certain nerves from implanted neurostimulators.

Typically implanted above your buttocks, the low-voltage signals stimulate the nerves delivering the pain signals. These electrical impulses alter and mask the pain signals, so the perception of pain is reduced or eliminated.

Types of spinal cord stimulators (SCS)

Conventional SCS devices carry implanted pulse generators, a type of battery that provides the electrical impulse that blocks the pain signal. These require no maintenance by the wearer, but they do require a minor surgical procedure to replace the pulse generator when it runs down.

Newer SCS devices may offer through-the-skin recharging, so the user needs to attend to this. Similarly, surgery becomes needed when the rechargeable battery reaches the end of its life, but this is less often than for conventional SCS designs.

Radiofrequency SCS systems help patients requiring high-output impulses over long periods. Radiofrequency systems are generally chosen for more demanding chronic pain relief situations. These systems require an external power supply.

SCS devices and you

Not everyone is a candidate for an SCS device. Much depends on your type of pain, its origins, and how long you’ve been suffering. If an SCS device is an option for you, there’s typically a trial period with a temporary SCS system. This can determine if it’s worth proceeding with a permanent implant, and it may reveal clues about your type of pain and the best settings for the device.

If you’re dealing with failed back surgery syndrome, book an appointment online or over the phone to speak with our pain experts at Premier Spine & Pain Management.

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