The use of electrical stimulation to relieve pain began in ancient times with the placement of torpedo fish directly onto painful body parts. Since then, the application of electrical stimulation to the body for pain relief has become much better and more sophisticated.
An article on the Neuromodulation website explained the Spinal Cord Stimulator, is a tiny battery-powered transmitter similar to a pacemaker which is fitted for chronic pain is now stopping patients from needing as many painkillers.
Researchers at Jefferson University in the US, monitored 5,000 people with chronic pain and found that one year after having the spine implant fitted, 93% of patients were on lower daily doses of painkilling drugs.
Spinal Cord Stimulators is a type of neurostimulation therapy proven to be effective for many chronic pain sufferers. Recommended by doctors for over 40 years to manage chronic pain in the back, arms and legs, SCS helps mask pain by blocking or changing pain signals before they reach the brain. In spinal cord stimulation, a tiny programmable generator and electrical leads are implanted beneath the skin. Small electrical currents are applied to the areas of the spinal cord involved in pain. For reasons that are not completely understood, these electrical impulses interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain and relieve pain without causing the side effects that medications can cause.
A pleasant tingling sensation is substituted for the pain and blocks the brain’s ability to sense pain in the stimulated areas. This is similar to the relief felt by rubbing an area after getting an injury. The electrical impulses can be targeted to specific locations and, as pain changes or improves, stimulation can be adjusted as necessary.
Spine Universe wrote that in 1989, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for chronic pain. Since that time, SCS has become a standard of care for patients with neuropathic chronic back and limb pain (nerve injury with abnormal nerve function producing pain). New technology has allowed for the development of neurostimulators that can allow patients with chronic back pain to reduce or eliminate their need for pain medications and return to comfortable, productive lives.
To make sure the patient will benefit from SCS, a temporary system is implanted and tried for a few days or a week. For the SCS trial, leads are placed beneath the skin and attached to a small generator the patient carries. The generator is similar to a pager or cell phone. If the SCS trial is successful, a complete permanent system with a generator is implanted at another time. The leads for the permanent system can be inserted the same way as in the trial. A small generator is surgically implanted beneath the skin in the upper buttock or abdomen. The wires are then connected, and the entire system is implanted beneath the skin. Nothing is visible on the body.
Nice wrote that a rechargeable spinal stimulator costs in the region of £13,000 – £22,000 so it has to work for you if you are self funding or even if you are insured. Non rechargeable ones are considerably cheaper and start from around £8,000 – £14,000.
Spine Health wrote about the disadvantages and risks of having a stimulator with the potential risks which is mainly related to the surgical procedures required for a trial period or long-term therapy. One extensive study in the medical literature found 38% of the research participants had device-related problems. The most common complications were unintended movement (also called migration) of the leads, failed connections in leads, and breakage of leads. However serious injuries are rare.
Advances in SCS technology have allowed people with chronic spine-related pain to reduce or eliminate their need for pain medications and return to comfortable, productive lives. To better understand what you need to know before undergoing SCS, SpineUniverse spoke with Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
Source: Jefferson University, Spine Universe, Neuromodulation, Nice , Spine Health