What Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

Roughly 20%, or about 50 million, Americans have chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are all kinds of consequences, from lost productivity to personal hardship. Chronic pain is linked to the opioid epidemic, a host of other chronic medical conditions, and impacts your overall quality of life. 

At Downtown Pain Management, our staff and Dr. Ron Ben-Meir are dedicated to helping you find solutions to managing your pain so you can live your life. One tool for pain management you may not have heard of is a spinal cord stimulator. This implantable device often helps alleviate pain caused by nerve damage. Whether you have back pain, neck pain, pain that stems from an old injury or surgery, a spinal cord stimulator could be a good solution for you. 

Nerve damage and chronic pain

A wide variety of situations can lead to chronic pain. For example, you may have had an injury that caused acute, or short-term, pain. But, after your injury healed, your nerves continued to send pain signals to your brain, leading to chronic, or long-term, pain. In some cases, back surgery can result in damaged nerves and chronic pain. 

How a spinal cord stimulator works

A spinal cord stimulator is designed to disrupt the pain signals to your brain. Under normal conditions, pain signals are important. Think about when you put your hand on a hot stove eye, for example. The pain signals scream, “Move, FAST!” 

But, when there’s a dysfunction in your nervous system and your nerves are sending pain signals that won’t prevent further damage and that don’t signal healing or another purpose, the result is chronic pain. Disrupting those signals may allow you to lead a more comfortable life. 

A spinal cord stimulator is a small device with very thin wires, called leads, attached. Dr. Ben-Meir implants the device in your back and precisely places the leads at specific points on the nerves that are sending the pain signals. 

Once it’s activated, the stimulator sends very mild electrical currents along with the leads. The current disrupts the pain signal. You may feel a tingling sensation instead of pain, or you may not feel anything at all. 

What to expect

If you’re a good candidate for pain relief with a spinal cord stimulator there are several steps. Usually, spinal cord stimulation is used when other forms of pain control haven’t been successful. After Dr. Ben-Meier evaluates your situation and discusses the option with you, he may suggest a trial stimulator. 

A trial stimulator is a way to make sure that spinal cord stimulation is likely to work for you. During the trial, just one or two leads are placed and the device controls the leads from outside your body.  If it works well to help control your pain during the trial period, Dr. Ben-Meier schedules the procedure to implant the device permanently. 

If you’d like to learn more about how spinal cord stimulation works to control pain, and whether or not you might be a good candidate for this form of pain control, schedule an appointment at Downtown Pain Management today. 

We have three locations, in Red Bank, Hoboken, and Manalapan, for your convenience. You can schedule an appointment at any of them online or by phone.

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