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Spinal Cord Modulation / Stimulation for Chronic Pain

Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is a standard treatment for patients with chronic pain in back and/or limbs who have not found pain relief from other treatments. Although this treatment is not for all patients, most of the patients who qualify for this therapy find a positive impact on their lives as they experience around 50-70% reduction in overall pain and an increased ability to function well in normal home and work activities. The SCS is also found to help the patients in reducing or eliminating the need of painkillers or other pain medications after the surgery.

How it works

In spinal cord stimulation, soft, thin wires with electrical leads on their tips are placed through a needle in the back near the spinal column. A small incision is then made and a tiny, programmable generator is placed in the upper buttock or abdomen (under the skin) which emits electrical currents to the spinal column. This generator can be programmed - the area or intensity of electrical stimulation can be changed and the system can be turned on and off or adjusted as necessary to provide optimal pain relief. The degree of pain relief experienced from SCS may vary from person to person so as the degree of pain changes or improves, stimulation can be adjusted as necessary. While the programming is initially done at the physician's office, the patients can learn how to control the stimulation on their own and adjust it to their pain levels.

Sources of chronic pain treatable with SCS

  • Failed back surgery syndrome: chronic pain after one or more back or neck surgeries that failed to alleviate persistent low back pain, leg pain (sciatica) or arm pain
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (complex regional pain syndrome): a progressive disease of the nervous system in which patients feel constant burning pain
  • Causalgia: chronic pain with a burning sensation caused by peripheral nerve injury
  • Arachnoiditis: painful inflammation and scarring of the meninges (protective layers) of the spinal nerves
  • Peripheral Neuropathy: a constant burning pain of the legs caused by the most distant nerves dying off
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