5 Things to Know About Spinal Cord Stimulation Before You Do It
Neuropathic pain is a specific kind of pain that can be as emotionally stressful as it is physically uncomfortable. It is the result of damage to either the central or peripheral nervous systems. As such, there are no curative therapies available. The best medical providers can do is help patients manage their pain. That is where spinal cord stimulation comes in.
Spinal cord stimulation is a medical procedure designed to relieve pain by implanting a small device that delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord. Those impulses block pain signals so they never reach the brain. It is not for everyone, but it does seem to work for some patients who don’t respond to more traditional treatments.
If you are thinking about spinal cord stimulation, here are five things to know about it before you go down that road:
1. It is Designed to Relieve Chronic Pain
First and foremost, spinal cord stimulation isn’t appropriate for acute pain. It is designed specifically for managing chronic pain that is experienced daily, or almost daily, over the long haul. The minimum threshold for defining pain as chronic is three months. But even at that, a doctor might be reticent to recommend spinal cord stimulation. Other treatments are usually tried first. Only after they fail is spinal cord stimulation on the table.
2. Stimulation Interferes with the Nervous System
As previously stated, spinal cord stimulation offers pain relief by blocking pain signals before they reach the brain. In essence, the therapy interferes with the natural function of the nervous system. It is completely safe, but patients need to be aware of how it works.
Lone Star Pain Medicine is a Texas pain management clinic that offers spinal cord stimulation along with a litany of additional alternative treatments. They recommend asking any and all questions you might have about how spinal cord stimulation works before you do it.
3. Device Options Vary
Thanks to technological advancements and different design theories, there are multiple devices from which doctors and their patients can choose. Initially, most patients are treated with a temporary device held in place outside of the body. If it works, a permanent device can be implanted under the skin.
Devices run the gamut from the most basic to models with tons of bells and whistles. Some of the more advanced devices include a remote control through which the patient can change up impulse frequency, intensity, and pattern.
4. Improved Quality of Life Is a Primary Goal
Due to its nature, neuropathic pain can be debilitating. Imagine a patient with neuropathic pain in the feet due to nerve damage from diabetes. His neuropathy is permanent. Not only that, but his disease will also progress as he ages. With each passing day it becomes more debilitating.
With that in mind, one of the primary goals of spinal cord stimulation is to improve quality of life. A successful implantation means less pain and discomfort. It gives patients more opportunities to get up and get around; to enjoy the things that make them happy; to spend time with family and try new things.
5. The Risks of Implantation Are Minimal
Spinal cord stimulation is considered generally safe for most patients. It is not recommended for patients with other medical problems that could be exacerbated by the implantation procedure or the stimulation itself. But other than that, the risks are minimal. Infection at the incision site is the biggest risk in most cases.
Spinal cord stimulation is just one option for treating neuropathic pain. If it interests you, talk to your GP or pain medicine doctor about it.