To understand spinal cord stimulation for chronic pain, specifically chronic back pain, you have to understand what chronic pain is and why this procedure is literally life changing for patients. Chronic pain is not just the act of living with pain, having good days and bad days; it’s life changing.
Understanding Chronic Pain
Clinically speaking, chronic pain is defined as pain that occurs for 3 months or longer. It can be caused by a past or current disease or illness, a past injury, or the cause might not be clear to any physicians, but you feel it. The pain can be sharp and burning or sore and achy. It can be stiff and tight to shooting pain and discomfort.
Pain itself is the direct result of an important function of the brain. For example, when there is an area of your body that is inflamed or injured in some way, the body stimulates pain receptors, which release chemicals. The chemicals travel up the spinal cord to the brain, where the brain receives the message and tells you that something hurts.
Chronic pain comes in many forms, and yet the affects of this type of pain can be life changing. Every single aspect of a patient’s life is affected, from relationships in work and home to eating habits and mental health. Chronic pain changes so many aspects of a patients body and brain that in time they begin to process pain messages differently.
Treatment for chronic pain often involves an interdisciplinary approach involving behavioral therapy, physical therapy and prescription medication or surgical intervention such as spinal cord stimulation.
Understanding Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation is simply as is sounds; stimulation to the spinal cord through electrical impulses received from a generator implanted into the back. It’s an amazing piece of technology that can intercept pain signals from reaching the brain.
The generator is surgically implanted while the patient is under light anesthesia. The ‘leads,’ the piece that actually delivers the electrical pulse, is also inserted in the epidural space just above the spinal cord.
It’s important to take a ‘test run’ first with this device in order to determine the setting you’ll need to decrease pain. After the test run, you and Dr. Pyles will sit down and discuss your amount of pain and the stimulation settings, which you ultimately have control over.
Spinal Cord Stimulation has been around for 40 years, and is a safe and effective procedure to ease chronic pain, specifically back pain.