How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Work for Pain Management?


Quick Answer

A spinal cord stimulator works for pain management by using an electrical current known as spinal cord stimulation, according to WebMD. A small pulse generator sends the electric signal to the spinal cord, causing interference in the nerves that send pain signals.

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Full Answer

Spinal cord stimulation is used as an option for people suffering from chronic leg or arm pain who have not had any relief using previous methods, explains Mayfield Clinic. A spinal cord stimulator is a device surgically placed under the skin that sends low electric currents to the spinal cord. When the device is activated, a person may feel a tingling feeling.

Spinal cord stimulation only interferes with the nerve pain signal sent to the brain, notes Mayfield Clinic. It does not eliminate the cause of the pain. Spinal cord stimulation can reduce pain by up to 70 percent. To see if spinal cord stimulation has the potential to work, a trial run is administered by inserting a temporary electrode into the skin. If the insert helps, a permanent stimulator is implanted, and the best pulse strength is determined, according to WebMD.

Common determinants as to whether spinal cord stimulation is recommended include whether the person has a verified source of pain, had a successful trial simulation, and if conservatives therapies have failed, says Mayfield Clinic. Additional factors in favor of undergoing the procedure are if the person has not benefited from any other surgery, if she is not dependent on pain medications, and if there are no medical complications preventing the implant.

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