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How a Spinal Cord Stimulator Works

Nerve pain can be unbearable at times, especially if many of the treatments you’ve tried haven’t helped. When the pain comes from your back, it not only affects that area, but sometimes affects your legs as well. Don’t lose hope though, because there’s a treatment that might be able to help with your pain — a spinal cord stimulator.

At Kellogg Brain and Spine, our team is ready to assist you with all of your spinal concerns, including chronic pain. Dr. Jordi Kellogg is our board-certified neurosurgeon, and he specializes in a variety of spine treatments, including spinal cord stimulators. 

Understanding a spinal cord stimulator

Back pain has many different causes, some of which can be treated conservatively. However, if your pain persists even after several types of treatment, Dr. Kellogg suggests another option — a spinal cord stimulator.

So what exactly is this device? The spinal cord stimulator is made up of a battery (also called a pulse generator) and thin wires known as leads. On the leads are tiny electrodes that transmit a mild electrical impulse to your nerves, which tricks your brain into not feeling your pain.

The leads, which are connected to the pulse generator, are placed in the epidural space in your spine. The pulse generator is placed under the skin either in your abdomen or your buttocks. You control the stimulation with a remote control whenever you’re in pain.

Spinal cord stimulators provide pain relief with paresthesia, which is a type of tingling feeling that covers up your pain. But there are newer types of simulators that are paresthesia-free, meaning you don’t feel any tingling or pain.

Conditions it helps

Dr. Kellogg recommends spinal cord stimulation for chronic back pain that hasn’t gotten better with more conservative treatments. 

Here are a few of the common problems that a spinal cord stimulator may be able to help:

Other conditions, such as osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease, can also lead to chronic pain that’s difficult to treat. 

Te device is also sometimes used to relieve pain when you aren’t a good candidate for back surgery. The spinal cord stimulator is also less invasive than most back surgeries, which makes it a good option.

What’s the procedure like?

Getting a spinal cord stimulator is a two-part procedure. Before the permanent device is implanted, Dr. Kellogg places trial leads in the area that you’re experiencing pain and attaches them to the pulse generator outside of your body.

You wear the trial device for a week or so, and you document your pain level each day during the trial. If you experience at least a 50% reduction in your pain, Dr. Kellogg schedules you for the permanent device.

For the surgery, you’re under sedation while Dr. Kellogg uses X-ray imaging to place the leads in the right place. He then anchors the leads down and tunnels them to the pulse generator, which is placed under your skin in either your buttocks or abdomen.

After the procedure, you’re monitored for a short time, and your device is programmed to your specific settings. Once you’re recovered, you can go home. You need to take it easy for a few weeks after surgery while the incision heals.

To find treatment for your back pain, click the request an appointment button while you’re here on our website, or call the nearest office in either Portland or Wilsonville, Oregon.

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