Spinal cord stimulation treats chronic back pain with electrical nerve stimulation, says WebMD. Pulses of electricity are sent to the spinal cord via a small pulse generator, and this interferes with the nerve impulses that cause pain.
According to WebMD, the doctor first tests to see if electrical stimulation eases the pain by inserting a temporary electrode through the skin. The patient controls the stimulation, and if successful, the doctor implants under the skin a permanent stimulator and the electrodes that connect wires to the spinal cord. The patient then treats herself for one to two hours, three to four times a day.
WebMD explains that the possible risks include scar tissue developing around the electrode, pain slowly moving outside the region being stimulated, electrode breakage, leakage of spinal fluid and bladder problems.
However, Spineuniverse explains that the benefits include the patient having control of the treatment, portability, the ability to travel and participate in recreational activities, and independent control of pain relief. Also, lessened pain reduces stress and improves the overall quality of life.
Better research is needed to show that electrical nerve stimulation works, states WebMD. Success varies widely, depending on the cause of pain. According to Spineuniverse, most patients report a 50 to 70 percent decrease in pain, but this treatment doesn't help everyone.