Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is an exciting and relatively new development in the field of Pain Medicine. It provides a way to alter the experience of pain by modulating cell-to- cell communication of pain signals within the spinal cord. The overall effect is to reduce the experience of pain.

This treatment involves the insertion of small electrodes near the spinal cord that transmit electrical impulses. A small battery powered impulse pulse generator (IPG) that is secured beneath the skin provides energy to the electrodes. Various patterns or programmes of stimulation with electrical current are now available to optimise the pain relief each patient experiences. Each patient will work closely with their Pain Specialist to individually tailor their most effective programme.

Spinal Cord Stimulation is most commonly used to treat back, leg (‘sciatica’) or arm pain that has not responded to spinal surgery. Spinal Cord Stimulation can also be effective in treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and persistent pain following injury or surgery. Research has also shown that it can be effective in treating and other neuropathic pain conditions.

If your doctor decides that this treatment is appropriate for your condition, a comprehensive trial is performed. This involves inserting temporary electrode leads through a needle into the epidural space. These leads are connected to a temporary, external pulse generator (hand held battery device). This is performed as a day procedure in hospital. The stimulation trial will continue for approximately 7 days. During the trial period, we will monitor changes in the level of pain and functional capacity (activity you can do). If you experience significant reduction in symptoms and improvement in function, implantation of a permanent system will be considered.

Stimulation of peripheral nerves can also be effective in the treatment of conditions such as headache and shoulder pain (see Suboccipital Stimulation and Suprascapular Nerve Stimulation).

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. Northern Pain Centre can facilitate you obtaining a second opinion. Please discuss this with us.