How Does a Trial Spinal Cord Stimulation Work?

How Does a Trial Spinal Cord Stimulation Work?

For most people with chronic pain, finding relief is a journey that involves trying multiple approaches and a combination of treatments until an effective solution is found. Seeing a pain management specialist is the first step in that process.

Pain management physicians specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating pain, and they’re dedicated to helping you get relief so you can have a good quality of life. At Pain Management Specialists in Rockville and Frederick, Maryland, board-certified physicians Stuart Hough, MD, and Ramani Peruvemba, MD, are invested in helping you achieve as pain-free a life as possible.

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is one of the tools we use to treat chronic pain. This system uses electrical pulses to interrupt pain signals. A trial period helps us know if spinal cord stimulation is the right treatment for you. If you’re considering spinal cord stimulation as a treatment for your chronic pain, here’s what to know about the trial period.

The basics of spinal cord stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation is not a first-line treatment for chronic pain. If you’re seeing the team at Pain Management Specialists to discuss spinal cord stimulation, that means other treatments have failed to bring you adequate relief from chronic pain.

A spinal cord stimulator basically consists of a small pulse generator and attached wires. The generator is generally implanted in the lower back, and the wires are placed near the spinal column. The generator sends mild electrical impulses through the wires, and the wires interrupt the pain signals, with the goal of eliminating the pain.

Finding out if spinal cord stimulation is right for you

To see if SCS is right for you, we insert thin wires and place them near your spinal column. The pulse generator, which the wires are attached to, is not implanted. Instead, it stays outside of your body. For example, it can be taped next to your hip.

The procedure takes about 30 minutes, and the trial lasts about 4-5 days. Treatment is usually considered effective if it results in at least a 50% reduction in pain. If your SCS adequately manages your pain, our team will schedule an outpatient procedure to permanently implant the pulse generator.

The device is customized to your pain pattern, and you’re given a remote control to take home. This gives you control over the stimulator, so you can adjust it as necessary to maintain pain relief.

People can opt for a rechargeable device that will last 9-10 years or a non rechargeable device that will last 3-5 years before needing to be replaced. The stimulator can be deactivated at any time. A spinal cord stimulator has no effect on your anatomy. It only modifies the pain signals that are sent to the brain.

What to expect during the spinal cord stimulation trial

After your test device is in place, you may experience immediate relief, or it may take a few days. You should be able to walk and do a moderate level of activity, but we may limit certain actions, such as heavy lifting, twisting, or bending, as these activities may disturb the wires. We may also recommend that you avoid prolonged upright sitting on hard surfaces or extended car rides (more than 2 hours).

During your trial, our team will provide you with a comprehensive list of physical activities that you may need to limit or avoid.

If SCS works for you and you receive a permanent device, our team may recommend that you avoid heavy lifting for a few weeks. After six weeks, our team will assess whether or not to continue any lifting restrictions.

To find out if SCS might be able to help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Pain Management Specialists today.

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