If you've been living with chronic pain, and pain medications aren't much help, or you want to reduce the medications you have to take, talk to your doctor about spinal cord stimulation. This chronic pain treatment isn't for all types of pain or for every person, but if it's suitable for you, the device might reduce your pain so you can reduce the amount of medications you take and begin to feel better. Here are some things to know about spinal cord stimulation.
1. The Treatment Masks Pain Signals
The purpose of spinal cord stimulation is to mask pain signals so your brain doesn't interpret them as pain. Your underlying condition isn't cured or improved, but you could feel less pain due to the electrical interference from the implanted device. Some devices replace pain sensations with a tingling sensation while others don't.
2. A Device Is Implanted Under Your Skin
When you first try this chronic pain treatment, your doctor uses a temporary device to determine if the treatment works for you. If so, a permanent stimulator is implanted under your skin in an outpatient surgery. This pain treatment device consists of a small stimulator that's positioned on your back just under your skin and electrodes the doctor connects to the nerves in your spine. The system also comes with a remote control unit you can use to turn the stimulator on and make adjustments to the settings.
3. You Can Control The Stimulation
There are times you may need to turn off the stimulator, such as when you're driving or not having episodes of pain, and you have full control over the actions of the device with your remote control. You can adjust the intensity of the stimulation for times when pain is more severe and you can target certain electrodes so you can control pain in various parts of your body.
4. You Can Resume Most Activities
When you're wearing the temporary stimulator, your activities will be restricted, but once you have your permanent implant, you can swim and do most of your usual activities, and you may be even more active since you should feel less pain.
5. The Batteries Last For Years
A stimulator works on batteries, and the batteries can be disposable or rechargeable. The rechargeable batteries could last several years, but you have to recharge the batteries daily by holding the charger against your skin over the implanted device. Disposable batteries have to be changed every few years, and this requires removing the implant to put in new batteries.