How Does SCS Work?
Spinal Cord Stimulation or SCS is a pain management treatment usually considered when non-surgical options fail to alleviate pain. SCS treatment is a two-step procedure. The first step is a trial period in which thin wires called electrodes, which are similar to thin catheters, are temporarily inserted into the skin and the spine’s pain-corresponding region.
This step is comparable to an epidural injection under light sedation. The electronic lead is then secured and left in place for up to a week to test the treatment’s success. If effective, you and the physician can decide if implanting the device is right for you. It can help alleviate unpleasant symptoms including:
- Lower back pain
- Persistent extremity nerve pain
- Complex regional pain syndrome (I or II)
- Chronic abdominal or pelvic pain
- Certain types of headaches
Types of Spinal Cord Stimulators
There are three primary types of spinal cord stimulators.
Implantable Pulse Generator (IPG):
This device is a battery-operated type of stimulator. During the procedure, the battery is inserted into the spine. Once the battery stops functioning, this one must be replaced via another surgery. This aspect can be considered a downside for many patients. However, this is a good option for those experiencing pain on one section of the body only as it emits a lower electrical output.
A rechargeable option for implantable pulse generators also exists. It works similarly to the more conventional IPG, but the battery can be recharged without the need for an additional procedure. These stimulators, however, due to their recharging capabilities, can emit higher electrical output. Patients who experience pain in their legs or lower back often benefit from this option as the signal reaches further down the body.
For this type of stimulator, the battery is located outside the body. This device is not commonly used nowadays since better options are available due to technological advances. It functions with rechargeable batteries similarly to the rechargeable IPG, and it is used for pain in the lower half of the body as the electrical signals reach further.
After the procedure, a specialist will run you through the device’s basics and how to operate it. All three devices have intensity adjustment capabilities. You may need to adjust the electrical signals’ intensity based on the position of your body. For example, if you are walking, your body might need a higher intensity than sitting or vice versa. Physicians can save a few preset options onto your device. Newer devices can also emit:
- High-frequency waves
- Wave bursts
- High-density stimulation
Schedule an Appointment
We recommend consulting your physician and pain management specialists to determine which of these options is best to treat your condition. If right for you, spinal cord stimulation can provide pain relief, allowing you to do, within reason, much more than you could before the procedure. Your physician will also discuss the limitations of this treatment and which activities should be limited or forbidden.