Spinal Cord Stimulation May Be the Answer to Back Pain

Doctor examining spinal MRI images

Back pain is one of the most common complaints of people in the United States. Nearly 16 million adults experience persistent or chronic back pain that limits their ability to participate in daily activities and maintain their regular lifestyle. While back pain is pervasive, patients have multiple treatment options to potentially experience relief from the condition. The key is finding a great pain management doctor or neurosurgeon who will determine the correct diagnosis and offer the best course of treatment.

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) features an award-winning medical team of neurosurgeons, spine surgeons, pain management doctors, rehabilitation specialists and physical therapists who recognize the challenges of living with back pain from an injury, congenital spine deformity, or degenerative spine condition. They treat back pain patients throughout northern New Jersey offering personalized care plans for each patient. Here, New Jersey’s most comprehensive care center discusses a unique treatment option for failed back syndrome — the spinal cord stimulator.

What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Spinal cord stimulation is a type of treatment to remedy specific kinds of chronic back pain that has failed to adequately respond to other forms of treatment. The therapy involves sending mild electrical signals to nerves that branch off the spinal cord via an epidural catheter.  The electrical pulses block pain messages from reaching the brain, thereby reducing pain without the use of opioids or invasive surgery.

Depending on the patient’s spine condition, there are several different electrical pulse patterns programable via a device called a spinal cord stimulator.  A spinal cord stimulator is programmed by a pain management doctor based on the patient’s condition and response to the stimulation.  The doctor selects the optimum type of electrical pulse pattern that will significantly reduce and perhaps eliminate the patient’s spine related pain. These spine stimulation models include:

  • Low-frequency models
  • High-frequency models
  • MRI-safe models
  • Rechargeable models
  • Non-rechargeable models

Low-frequency models disguise pain with paresthesia (a faint tingling sensation), while high-frequency models mask pain without causing tingling by using burst pulses.

It is important to note that spinal cord stimulation only modifies the transmission of a pain signal from the spine to the brain.  It either halts the transmission or alters it. Therefore, each person experiences different levels of pain relief. Reducing pain by at least 50 to 70 percent is the minimum goal of spinal cord stimulation. But even a slight decrease in constant unrelenting pain is beneficial if it enables patients to use fewer opioids and have an improved quality of life.

The committed pain control doctor specialists and neurosurgeons at CNSO evaluate each patient who presents with acute to chronic back pain to decide which treatment will provide the best outcome. Depending on the treatment method already attempted, they will determine the next best step starting from conservative care to surgical options.  These methods may include physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, or medication.  But a spinal cord stimulator is only offered once all other conservative methods and any indicated surgical methods have failed.

When Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Used?

Spinal cord stimulation is increasingly recommended for several health problems that cause persistent pain. The most common uses for a spinal cord stimulator include:

The spinal cord stimulator may offer relief for some patients with back pain, but not everyone will experience the same amount of pain reduction. To determine whether a patient is a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation, many doctors use a two-step screening method.

This process includes a thorough evaluation of the patient’s condition to see if they could even benefit from a stimulator. If the patient meets the general criteria, they will undergo a week of trial stimulation to see how well the device works on their pain. This trial involves the temporary insertion of thin epidural wires with attached electrodes and an external transmitter. If substantial pain relief is achieved, surgery will be scheduled to permanently implant the device under the skin and secure the electrodes.

Learn More About Spinal Cord Stimulator Treatment

Individuals who suffer from chronic back pain understand how significant an impact the condition leaves on their life. Those searching for effective pain management solutions should look no further than NJ’s most comprehensive treatment center for spine, brain, and nerve concerns — Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO).

The dedicated surgical and non-surgical team features leading board-certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, interventional pain management physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists. Patients may seek treatment at multiple convenient locations across northern New Jersey, including Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson counties. To learn more about pain management treatments or schedule an appointment, contact CNSO today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics