Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is a highly effective, drug-free therapy for providing relief from chronic pain. But what is spinal cord stimulation? How well does spinal cord stimulation work? Is there a “best” spinal cord stimulator device? In this blog, we review and answer these and more of the most frequently asked SCS questions!
- What is spinal cord stimulation?
- How do I know if spinal cord stimulation (SCS) will work for me?
- What does spinal cord stimulation feel like?
- Will spinal cord stimulation therapy completely eliminate my chronic pain?
- Will spinal cord stimulation eliminate other sources of pain?
- What is the best spinal cord stimulator for me?
- Is spinal cord stimulation a new therapy?
- Is spinal cord stimulation for chronic pain covered by my insurance?
What is spinal cord stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is a highly specialized therapy for the treatment of chronic pain that uses electricity to block pain signals. Two thin leads are placed next to specific nerves along the spinal cord. The other end of those leads are attached to a small battery, called a pulse generator,” that is implanted in the upper buttock or lower abdomen. The battery emits mild electrical pulses, which the leads deliver to the troublesome nerves. The pulses “stimulate” the nerves, which blocks pain signals before they can reach the brain. The implantation is an outpatient procedure, so the patient can go home the very same day and start enjoying life with less pain.
How do I know if spinal cord stimulation (SCS) will work for me?
The first step is to meet with a Twin Cities Pain Clinic provider to discuss your pain and treatment history. You will review details such as the type of pain, its severity, and your response to past pain treatment. If your provider thinks you are a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation, you can complete a trial to see if it will provide adequate pain relief. That’s right, you can undergo a trial period to see how spinal cord stimulation will affect you during your everyday life. During the trial, you wear the battery externally on a special belt. It functions the same and provides the same kind of relief you would experience from the permanent implant. The trial generally lasts about a week. If you and your provider agree that you experienced adequate relief during the trial, you may choose to proceed with the permanent implant.
What does spinal cord stimulation feel like?
Your stimulator device has numerous programming levels that can be adjusted to deliver your preferred sensation and pain relief. With some device models and settings, you may feel a slight tingling sensation, called a paresthesia, in place of pain. In other instances, you will not feel anything at all!
Will spinal cord stimulation therapy completely eliminate my chronic pain?
Typically, most people experience significant and sustained reduction in chronic pain. However, spinal cord stimulation does not eliminate the source of pain, so the amount of pain reduction can vary from person to person. Spinal cord stimulation therapy is not a cure for chronic pain, but rather a therapy to help relieve and manage your pain.
Will spinal cord stimulation eliminate other sources of pain?
Spinal cord stimulation therapy is specially designed to target nerves in the spine that are primarily associated with chronic neuropathic pain in the back or neck. As such, SCS will not provide relief from other types of pain such as headaches, stomach aches, fractures, etc.
What is the best spinal cord stimulator for me?
Many of the world’s top medical device companies make their own model of spinal cord stimulator, including Medtronic, Abbott, Boston Scientific, and Nevro, and each one is a marvel of medical engineering. The best stimulator for you will depend on the type and source of your pain. Your pain management provider will review these details with you and can then determine the stimulator that he or she believes will provide you with the greatest level of pain relief.
Is spinal cord stimulation a new therapy?
It is not! Spinal cord stimulation was introduced as a treatment for chronic pain back in the late 1960s and was officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1984. However, recent technological breakthroughs have resulted in spinal cord stimulators that are significantly more effective and can fit in the palm of your hand, with room to spare.
FUN FACT: The basic theory of electrical stimulation of the nervous system goes all the way back to ancient Rome!
Is spinal cord stimulation for chronic pain covered by my insurance?
Spinal cord stimulation therapy is covered by most insurance carriers. As with the majority of pain treatments, you will need an approval from your insurance company before you can receive a SCS for your chronic pain. Insurance carriers usually require you to try conservative treatments first, such as physical therapy.
Medicare – Spinal cord stimulators are approved for coverage by Medicare, as long as the procedure is determined to be medically necessary. Medicare usually requires you to try conservative treatments first, such as physical therapy.
Workers’ Compensation – Most workers’ compensation carriers cover SCS with an approval before treatment.
Still have questions?
- Call our Spinal Cord Stimulator help line at 952-204-3585.
- Schedule a consultation>>