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Spinal Cord Stimulation: Drug-Free Relief for Chronic Back Pain

In the US, back pain is very common. With around 80% of people experiencing some form of back pain over their lifetime, and 15-20% of people dealing with it every year, it’s also a leading cause of disability

Chronic back pain is the kind that lasts three to six months or longer, even after the area has healed. If you’re looking for relief from chronic back pain, there are many ways to treat it. For a long-term solution for pain management, consider spinal cord stimulation.

Residents of Shrewsbury, Toms River, or Edison, New Jersey, looking for relief from chronic back pain have treatment options available. Dr. Marc Menkowitz, Dr. Steve Paragioudakis, and our capable team at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine specialize in orthopedic spine conditions, including advanced treatments such as spinal cord stimulation.

What is a spinal cord stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is an implanted device that uses low electrical pulses for pain relief in the spine. It’s placed under your skin in the buttock or abdomen, and a remote control allows you to send impulses to your spine when you feel pain. The electrical impulse replaces your pain with a light tingling sensation called paresthesia, which provides much-needed relief from chronic back pain caused by neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, and spinal cord injuries.

How is it applied?

The device generally consists of three key components: an implantable pulse generator (IPG) similar to a pacemaker for power, electrode wires to send signals to the spine, and an external remote to control the signals when you’re in pain.

Before committing to SCS long term, you will undergo a trial period for about a week. This allows us — and you — to assess how well the device is working to relieve your pain. 

If the trial is successful in reducing your pain by at least 50%, then we surgically implant the permanent stimulator. First, we feed the electrodes into your epidural space and position them to precisely target your affected nerve or nerves. Then we make a small incision in your abdomen or buttock, and insert the IPG, connect it to the leads, and test it before closing the incision. 

After your surgery, you can manage your pain with the remote control. The batteries typically last three to five years, and rechargeable batteries may last over 15 years.

What types are available?

There are two main types of this device:

The conventional stimulator

This standard stimulator is a good choice for people with pain in just one area, as it provides a low electrical output. Additional surgery will be necessary to replace the battery once it runs out.

The rechargeable stimulator

The rechargeable stimulator is similar to the conventional device, except recharging the battery doesn’t require surgery. The rechargeable device also has a higher electrical output, allowing it to reach more areas. This would be a good choice if you have pain in more than one area of the body, such as the back and lower legs.

If you haven’t had success with other nonsurgical methods of treatment for chronic back pain, SCS may be a viable solution that can bring long-term pain relief. Our specialists help you determine the right device for you. 

With spinal cord stimulation, you can have years of relief without relying on medications. If you’re ready to try spinal cord stimulation, make an appointment with Dr. Menkowitz or Dr. Paragioudakis at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine today for chronic back pain relief.

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