Spinal cord stimulation is a safe, reversible, and effective option for pain that hasn’t responded to more conservative options like pain medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections.
Spinal cord stimulators are used to treat chronic pain by interrupting the pain signals before they reach the brain. A small device called an implantable pulse generator is used to send an electrical current to the nerve fibers in the spinal cord. When the pulse generator is activated, the electrical currents will stimulate the nerves where the pain is felt and interrupt that signal to the brain. This device does not eliminate the source of the pain, it just prevents the brain from receiving the pain signals from the nerves in the spinal cord. The brain does not perceive the pain as pain but instead a tingling sensation is felt in the affected area of the body.
People with spinal cord stimulators typically report that their pain levels are cut by 50% or more. This is often enough to reduce dependence on other types of pain relief, such as opioid medications.
Both transcutaneous and fully implanted spinal cord stimulators are available. Each of these have both benefits and drawbacks. Talk with your doctor about your options to choose the device that is best for you.