Spinal Cord Stimulation is a technology that aims to reduce pain by electrically modifying (reducing) pain signals in the spinal cord. Spinal cord stimulator leads, with electrodes, are positioned in the epidural space where they can modify pain signals in the spinal cord. Traditional low frequency stimulation produces a pleasant tingling sensation in the area of pain, whereas more recent technologies, e.g. high-frequency spinal cord stimulation (HF10) can reduce your pain without the tingling.
Spinal cord stimulation has been used for pain treatment since 1969. Recent improvements in technology have however dramatically increased its effectiveness, and increased the range of conditions that are treatable e.g. back pain.
Your pain specialist will discuss with you the best options for your pain and will recommend the type of therapy that is best suited for you.
Spinal cord stimulation is usually not suitable for persons with lowered immunity (including smoking), bleeding disorders, active infection, or anyone who is pregnant.
It is essential that you have a trial of spinal cord stimulation before you decide to proceed to a full implantation. A trial is performed to assess whether the stimulator will be effective in reducing your pain. A successful trial is characterised by a marked reduction in pain (greater than 50%, and usually 70-80%), an ability to do more functionally, and often a reduction in pain medication use.
A trial starts with a procedure in an operating theatre under sedation, and involves the placement of stimulator leads near the spinal cord (in the epidural space),via a needle. The leads are positioned precisely using x-rays for guidance.
If the trial is successful, implantation of a permanent system is possible. This system can provide benefit for many years.