Spinal cord stimulation therapy is a pain treatment that masks the pain signal before they reach the brain. A device similar to a pacemaker is implanted in the body and delivers electrical pulses to the spinal cord. This is an option for patients with chronic, leg, or arm pain.
What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is a small device that is placed under the skin and transmits a mild, low-frequency electric current to the spinal cord. A tiny wire transfers the pulse to the nerve fibers. The SCS minimizes pain because the current modifies and hides the pain signals from reaching the brain.
It is important to note that spinal cord stimulation therapy does not get rid of the source of the pain. It simply runs interference with the signal to the brain. This means that pain relief can vary depending on the patient. The SCS device produces a slight tingling sensation.. It is this sensation that overrides the pain signals. Pain signals travel on the small nerve fibers, whereas the fabricated signals from the SCS travel on larger, more dominant nerves fibers.
The goal of spinal cord stimulation is not to completely erase pain, but to provide a 50-70% reduction. Even the slightest bit of pain relief can be helpful to someone who suffers regularly. Before a permanent spinal cord stimulator is implanted, each patient undergoes a trial to make sure this type of therapy will be effective and reduce their pain.
Why is SCS Used?
Spinal cord stimulation is used to treat neuropathic pain. This is pain that originates from nerve damage. The nerve damage could be caused by injury, accident, or trauma. Patients who are prime candidates for SCS have typically suffered from chronic pain in the lower back, leg, or arm. Commonly, these patients have also had previous surgeries.
More frequently, SCS is being used to avoid back surgery. Other leading causes for receiving SCS therapy is complex regional pain syndrome and peripheral neuropathic pain. Nerve pain that spans beyond damage to the brain and spinal cord, such as from an infection or even amputation or diabetes, is another reason that SCS may be recommended by your physician.
More recently, SCS therapy has been proven to treat a number of chronic visceral pain types, such as abdominal or pelvic pain.
Spinal cord stimulation therapy is used when other treatment types have not been effective in reducing chronic pain or if the patient does not want to undergo surgery. Fortunately, there are no pre-existing medical conditions that would prevent someone from receiving this type of therapy. If you have pain that is caused by a correctable problem (meaning it could be fixed by having surgery or other interventional treatments), SCS is a viable option for reducing your pain.
This type of therapy is more effective when utilized in the earlier stages of a chronic disease or condition, rather than later when a disability has been established.
SCS therapy is used to reduce these types of pain:
- Failed Back Surgery Syndrome: When initial surgery (or surgeries) have been ineffective in reducing pain on a consistent basis.
- Sciatica or Arm Pain: Persistent pain caused by arthritis, spinal stenosis, or extensive nerve damage.
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: When patients experience severe chronic pain, typically in their hands or feet.
- Arachnoiditis: This is painful inflammation and scarring of the protective lining of spinal nerves
Other types of pain caused by stump pain, peripheral vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, or a spinal cord injury may be reduced by the use of a spinal cord stimulator.
Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation therapy reduces the number of abnormal pain signals from reaching the brain. However, it also helps the body restore pain-inhibition pathways that have been lost. Pain-inhibitory pathways essentially work as a gate-keeper. They control how much pain is received by the brain. SCS therapy harnesses the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals that are used by nerve fibers to communicate with each other. Not only does this whole process reduce pain, but it increases microcirculation.
It is reported that 50-70% of patients who are candidates for SCS therapy experience 50% reduction in pain. An even higher proportion can expect to experience a 30% reduction in pain levels. For many patients who suffer from chronic pain, even the smallest amount of pain relief is welcomed. This has a profound effect on improving the quality of life in patients who have suffered from long-term chronic pain.
Learn more about spinal cord stimulation and how it works for treating chronic pain, fill out the form below and get in touch with the team at Progressive Pain Management today.
Lower extremity pain is commonly due to overuse and inflammation as a result of conditions that affect bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and other organs. The key to pain is understanding what causes it. Only physicians can truly diagnose this kind of pain. There are a few questions to ask when diagnosing pain in your legs, hips, thighs, ankles, and lower joints.
- Is there a recent trauma? Falls to the ground are a common cause for lower extremity pain. This is especially true when a patient is unable to recall periods of time or suffers from a drug withdrawal. There is a chance of fracture, so radiographs should be taken.
- Is the pain articular or non-articular? Articular pain (meaning joint pain) is often accompanied by inflammation or swelling. Non-articular pain is musculoskeletal pain and affects muscles and bones. These differentiating symptoms help physicians diagnose the potential source of the pain.
- What is the root of the pain? When determining and understanding the root of the pain, physicians consider a broad variety of symptoms and characteristics regarding your pain. Things like infection, inflammation, vascular, and neoplastic causes can disguise other sources of pain.
Being able to answer those questions helps pain doctors diagnose pain and recommend effective treatments for lower extremities. The term “lower extremities” includes the pelvis and hip joint, thigh, knee, lower leg, ankle, and feet.
Types of Lower Extremity Pain
Because your ankle bears the weight of your entire body, it is prone to injury. The ankle is a complex network of bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. This means there are a lot of things that can cause pain.
Ankle pain can be caused by a number of conditions, including, but not limited to:
- Achillies tendonitis
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Sprained Ankle
- Stress Fractures
Pain in your thigh commonly starts in nerves that surround the hip and radiate down. Muscle pain, nerve pain, and injuries are all factors to consider when looking at thigh pain.
Pain may be caused by:
- Bernhardt-Roth syndrome
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Sprained or torn ligament
- Blood clots
Foot pain can be caused by overuse and conditions that cause inflammation like injury to tendons or ligaments in the foot. Arthritis is a common cause of foot pain. The bottom of the foot has a network of nerves that when damaged, cause immense burning sensations, numbness, or tingling.
Common causes of foot pain include:
- Mortnon’s Neuroma
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Diabetic Neuropathy
Leg pain can be caused by a wide variety of conditions and injuries. Generally, the leg pain is a cause of tissue inflammation. This can be a result of injury or chronic diseases. The leg contains many different types of tissues and bone structures, making injury and pain very common.
Leg pain can be caused by:
- Shin Splints
- Stress Fractures
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
Hip and Pelvis
Hip and pelvis pain can be difficult to diagnose. The movement of the hip joint, lower back, and leg bones are all connected by a large network of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. Pain from another area of the body frequently causes pain in the hip and pelvis region. This is called referred pain.
Sources of pain can include:
- Bone Fractures
- Nerve Damage
- Muscle Injury or Inflammation
If you use your knees to repetitively kneel or lift heavy objects, you may experience knee pain. Knee pain affects people of all ages. Injuries are common and regularly affect the ligaments, tendons, or fluid-filled sacs that surround the bone. Cartilage in the knee also gets damaged from normal wear and tear, which can cause pain.
Common causes for pain include:
- Meniscal Injuries
- ACL tears
Once a diagnosis has been made, your physician will create a treatment plan specific to your pain. If the cause is musculoskeletal, non-steroidal medications or acetaminophen may be used. If pain persists, stronger medications may be prescribed, although it is rare that narcotics are needed.
If the pain is articular pain, corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce pain. Muscle and tendon pain can be reduced using physical therapy. However, if the muscle pain is due to arthritis, physical therapy may not be helpful.
Your doctor will work with you to create an effective treatment plan that fits your lifestyle and provides the greatest success in restoring a higher quality of life. The team at Progressive Pain Management can help diagnose the underlying cause of your lower extremity pain and find a relief solution. Fill out the form below to contact the team today.