Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation delivers electrical pulses to specific spinal nerves that are causing pain.

Spinal cord stimulation is a type of neurostimulation. In this interventional pain management treatment, a permanent spinal cord stimulator is implanted under the skin. This spinal cord stimulator delivers regular electrical impulses to the spinal nerves that are causing pain, blocking these pain messages before they can reach the brain. The implanted device is small, like a pacemaker, and does not interfere with normal daily activities. Spinal cord stimulation therapy may help to reduce dependence on oral pain medications.

Conditions treated by spinal cord stimulation

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation is used in the treatment of several pain conditions, including:

  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Chronic low back pain that does not respond to other therapies
  • Chronic arm and leg pain

Your Henry Ford Pain Management specialist will work with you to determine whether a neurostimulation therapy (spinal cord stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation or peripheral field stimulation) or other interventional pain management treatment is best for your pain condition.

Spinal cord stimulation is performed in two separate procedures

The two spinal cord stimulation procedures include:

  1. Initial trial electrodes: An initial procedure to connect an external, trial pulse generator. This is used to test the effectiveness of the spinal cord stimulation treatment before proceeding to the permanent spinal cord stimulator.
  2. Permanent spinal cord stimulator implant: If your pain is reduced by 50 percent during the initial test period, you will undergo a second procedure to implant a permanent spinal cord stimulator under your skin for long-term pain management.

Procedure 1: Initial trial electrodes

During this minimally invasive procedure:

  1. You lie on your stomach.
  2. Your skin is sterilized at the injection site.
  3. You are administered a local anesthetic to numb the injection area.
  4. Your pain management physician inserts wires (leads) through a needle, under your skin and into the spinal cord space near the targeted spinal nerves.
  5. These leads are then connected externally to a smartphone-sized electrical pulse generator that you carry with you during the initial test period.

Procedure 2: Implanting the permanent spinal cord stimulator

This surgery is performed under general anesthesia. During this procedure:

  1. You lie on your stomach.
  2. Your skin is sterilized at the surgical site.
  3. You are administered general anesthesia.
  4. Your pain management physician connects the existing leads from the test pulse generator to a smaller spinal cord stimulator and implants this permanent device under your skin.

Following each spinal cord stimulation procedure

You will be moved to a recovery room and monitored by your care team. In most cases, spinal cord stimulation procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and you will go home the same day, although in rare cases some patients may require admission to the hospital following the procedure.

The Henry Ford Pain Center approach

At the Henry Ford Pain Center, pain treatment begins with a thorough medical history and physical exam. All patients are evaluated by board-certified pain medicine physicians, physician assistants and certified nurse practitioners to identify the cause of their pain. Following initial assessment, we work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include interventional pain procedures, medication therapy, physical therapy, massage and other complementary options.

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