The opioid crisis in the United States has brought the subject of pain management into sharp focus. Lawmakers, drug manufacturers, medical device designers, and physicians are all coming together to try to find effective ways to bring relief while avoiding the scourge of addiction. For those who are suffering from lower back pain, spinal cord stimulators have become an increasingly attractive option.
Patients who have already attempted physical therapy, steroid and anesthetic injections and medications have found that this small device, made up of a battery and wires that are implanted into their body, can allow them to send electrical impulses to block pain signals. It’s a process called neuromodulation, and it is something that our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey is able to offer to patients as an alternative to spinal decompression and spinal fusion. It is also a better way to treat chronic pain than the opiates that have caused so many problems and unintended consequences.
A spinal cord stimulator is a drug-free solution that can both relieve pain and get people off of pain medications. Both for those who want to avoid surgery and those who have had surgery but who are still suffering, the implants can provide significant relief. The surgery is a short procedure in which the spine specialist uses diagnostic imaging equipment to guide them through the process of anchoring wires along the spine through a small incision. A small battery that holds two wires is also implanted, usually near the hip. The battery generally has eight electrodes, which means that a patient will end up with 16 electrodes available to treat their pain at its point of origin. Recovery generally takes less than two weeks, but the impact of the device is felt almost immediately.
The newest spinal cord stimulators have come a long way in terms of their abilities and ease of use. The battery can charge to full power in about an hour, and each unit has a useful life of about ten years. It can regulate the strength of its signal based on body position, with a weaker signal being sent when the patient is lying down then when they are standing up. Many have wireless interfaces and can be programmed through the use of a tablet. Other versions require programming and maintenance by the physician.
Patients who have had the spinal cord stimulators implanted have reported a marked improvement in their quality of life. Some who had been living with a constant state of pain report that they have gone from discomfort that they had ranked as a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10 to a much more manageable 3 out of 10. Others find that their pain disappears completely with the use of the device.
If you would like information on whether a spinal cord stimulator is the right answer for you, contact our practice today to set up an appointment with a lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey.