A spinal cord stimulator is an electronic device that is implanted in the body to help relieve chronic pain. Also known as a dorsal column stimulator, the device sends low electrical currents through wires placed near the spinal cord to treat pain. It allows patients to control when pain relief is needed or not.
The device does not cure chronic pain, but usually provides a 50% or greater decrease in pain and allows patients to be more active and have less of a need for pain medication. This procedure is usually considered when other solutions, such as surgery, injections and medications, have failed. Before implantation, patients will often be asked to go through a trial period with an external device. The trial will test patients’ pain levels and see if they increase with the help of the device.
During the implantation of the permanent device, wires are fed with a needle and positioned on the spinal cord. The actual device is placed dependent on where the pain is. The device can be removed if necessary. The battery of the device must be replaced every 2 to 5 years. Complications rarely occur as the procedure is very safe and minimally invasive. Proper care following the procedure is required and includes limiting movement and avoiding driving for the first few weeks.