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Spinal Cord Stimulators

A spinal cord stimulator uses low voltage stimulation of the spinal nerves to block the feeling of pain. The mild electric current is delivered through a pulse generating device that is surgically implanted under the skin. The stimulation feels like a mild tingling in the area where the current is placed. Pain is reduced because the electrical current interrupts the pain signal from reaching the brain.

Spinal cord stimulation may be an option for patients with chronic pain associated with sciatica, failed back surgery, or nerve pain, who have not benefited from more conservative therapies.


Prior to having a permanent placement of a spinal cord stimulator a patient will undergo a trial procedure in which leads are placed in the epidural space of the spinal cord and are programmed to relieve the patient’s pain. These temporary leads are removed after 7-10 days.

During a permanent spinal cord stimulator surgery, Sound Pain Alliance Providers implant the device using a three-step process:

  1. Placement of the surgical lead in the epidural space of the spinal cord.
  2. Tunneling the leads under the skin to the pulse generator pocket and attaching them to the pulse generator after it is placed.
  3. Placement of the pulse generator in the buttock or abdomen.
  • During SCS implantation, there is a risk for bleeding, infection, pain at the site of surgery, nerve damage or (rarely) paralysis.
  • In some people, scar tissue may build up over the electrode at the end of the lead, blocking the stimulator’s electrical impulse from reaching its target. In addition, the lead may move or shift, sending stimulation to the wrong location, or the neurostimulator could shift beneath the skin making it painful, hard to charge the battery or communicate with the handheld remote.
  • There is also a small risk that the lead could break or the stimulator could malfunction and require replacement.
  •  Finally, some patients may respond well to SCS at first, but later develop a tolerance to the therapy. In this case, the pain comes back because the nerves stop responding to neuromodulation.

In addition to reducing pain, other important benefits of SCS include:

  • Improved functioning
  • Increased activity and mobility
  • Reduced opioid [narcotic] use
  • Less need for other pain medications
  • Less dependence on bracing
  • Improved sleep

The effects of SCS vary from person to person, and it is important to understand that SCS may help reduce your pain, but not eliminate it.

Are you ready to stop living life in pain?