Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a procedure in which a small device is inserted just under the skin. The purpose of this device is to send out a mild electrical current to the spine, which disrupts neurons that communicate pain signals to the brain. The result is that patients with chronic back discomfort experience less pain or, in some cases, no pain at all.
However, like any procedure to help treat a condition or chronic pain, there are both benefits and risks to consider. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and risks of spinal cord stimulation treatment.
Advantages of SCS
With SCS, you’ll receive a trial run of a device and the level of stimulation before having a permanent device implanted in your body. During this trial period, the device stays on the outside of your body, and you can try out the stimulation for a week to see if it helps your pain. This way, if you don’t experience a significant reduction in your pain (50% or more), you won’t go through the procedure of having a permanent device implanted.
Although we use the word “permanent”, the device isn’t truly permanent—it can be removed at any time. This is another advantage to the procedure: it’s reversible should you ever decide you don’t want it anymore. The procedure itself is also minimally invasive and happens in an outpatient setting, allowing you to go home the same day. Since the device is safely implanted under the skin, you can still enjoy all your normal activities, even swimming, when wearing a spinal cord stimulator.
Patients who benefit from SCS can also typically reduce or even eliminate their reliance on pain medications. You will also be able to control the level of stimulation you receive at home, resulting in a customizable form of treatment for days you experience more or less discomfort than others.
Disadvantages of SCS
One of the primary disadvantages of spinal cord stimulation is that it won’t work for every patient. Some patients only experience partial pain relief; others, none at all. Most patients won’t experience a total elimination of their pain, just a reduction.
Another disadvantage is that SCS doesn’t target the source of your pain. Instead, it helps stop pain signals from reaching the brain. So if you have an underlying cause of your pain, it will go unaddressed with SCS. If you have a condition that can be corrected, your physician will recommend steps to correct the underlying condition before trying a spinal cord stimulator.
Risks of the Procedure
Although it happens in an outpatient setting, placing a spinal cord stimulator device is still a surgical procedure and carries the same risk as any surgical procedure, including bleeding and infection, pain at the site of the procedure, weakness and numbness, migration of the device or electrodes, and loss of effectiveness of the treatment.
If you’re considering this procedure and looking for a “spine and joint center near me”, your physician will review the risks and potential complications with you prior to the procedure.
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Could spinal cord stimulation help relieve your chronic pain? Find out by making an appointment with one of the experienced physicians at Summit Spine & Joint Centers. If you’re searching for a “spine and joint center near me”, call us today at (770) 250-4020 or schedule an appointment online!