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What is the Mechanism Behind Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Jan 11, 2024
Spinal cord stimulation has the remarkable ability to ease chronic pain, helping you return to a more active life and reducing your need for pain medicines. You can safely use it for years for pain management. Here’s how it works.

Spinal cord stimulation offers the hope of long-lasting relief from chronic pain, no matter what condition causes your symptoms. This advanced treatment also has an advantage you can’t get with most treatments: You can try it out for a week to see how well it works for you.

Our experienced Alliance Spine and Pain Centers pain management team specializes in today’s most advanced treatments, including spinal cord stimulation.

If you face chronic pain that doesn’t respond to conventional care, you owe it to yourself to learn if you’re a good candidate for this cutting-edge treatment.

Spinal cord stimulation eases chronic pain

A vast network of sensory nerves runs throughout your body and detects pain. Then, the nerves generate electrical signals that carry the information through the spinal cord to your brain.

Spinal cord stimulation sends a mild electrical impulse into the spinal nerves, blocking or masking the pain signals and preventing the messages from reaching your brain.

You can’t perceive pain until your brain receives and interprets the nerve signals. As a result, spinal cord stimulation is a safe, effective way to reduce chronic pain for most people.

How spinal cord stimulators work

Though it may sound complex, spinal cord stimulation is remarkably uncomplicated. Using real-time imaging, we guide slim wires (leads) through the epidural space, a fat-filled area along the spinal cord. 

We place the leads next to the sensory nerves coming from the body area causing your pain. Then, we attach the other end of the wire to a small generator (battery pack) and implant the generator under your skin near the bottom of your spine.

You use a remote controller to turn the generator on and off and change the level of electrical stimulation, adjusting it as needed for optimal pain relief.

Most patients find that spinal cord stimulation reduces their pain by at least 50% and often more. A 50% reduction makes a dramatic difference in your life, helping you to return to your favorite activities.

Candidates for spinal cord stimulation

Many people living with chronic pain (pain lasting longer than three months) are possible candidates for spinal cord stimulation. However, it’s not the first treatment considered, so we begin by reviewing your medical history, learning about your pain, and completing an exam.

Depending on your previous medical care, we may recommend other interventional or regenerative therapies before trying spinal cord stimulation.

After deciding to move forward with spinal cord stimulation, you have a trial to determine whether the device works for you. We place the wire electrodes in your spine during the trial but don’t implant the generator. You wear the generator outside your body and use the device for about a week.

We can also easily remove the wires and suggest another treatment if your pain doesn’t improve during the trial.

But if you have a successful trial, we implant the generator. Spinal cord stimulation is safe to use as long as needed to ease your pain. 

Our pain management experts have helped many patients overcome pain with spinal cord stimulation. Call the nearest Alliance Spine and Pain Centers office or request an appointment online to begin your journey toward a better quality of life.