How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial Work?

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How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial Work?

Spinal cord stimulation can be life-changing for those with treatment-resistant chronic pain. You start with a trial period to ensure a spinal cord stimulator can effectively reduce or eliminate your pain.

When other treatments fail to eliminate or reduce chronic pain symptoms, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) may be the answer. Before committing to a permanent surgical implant, you undergo a spinal cord stimulation trial to verify it’s the right technology for your pain condition.

At Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management in West Des Moines and Des Moines, Iowa, our doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating complex pain conditions. We partner with you to discover the root cause of pain symptoms, ensuring an accurate diagnosis and the most effective treatment plan. 

SCS offers relief from severe chronic pain caused by a wide range of conditions. However, due to the complex nature of nerve tissues and pain signals, it may not work for everyone. That’s why we carry out a trial before placing a permanent SCS system. 

Spinal cord stimulation basics

SCS uses tiny electrical pulses to interrupt the pain signals sent between the source of pain and your brain through your spinal cord. It’s a medication-free therapy that can help treat pain caused by a variety of conditions, including:

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Persistent spinal pain syndrome (failed back surgery syndrome)
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Sciatica
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Degenerative disc disease

A generator emits a mild electrical signal through implanted electrodes into your nerves at the location where pain sensations originate. Pain is either eliminated entirely or replaced by a tingling sensation. You can manage relief at the touch of a button, using a remote control. 

The battery and generator are subdermal implants placed under your skin during a minimally invasive procedure. Through the SCS trial, however, the battery remains outside your body, connecting to implanted temporary electrodes at the target nerve location.

Your spinal cord stimulation trial: What to expect

Under sedation, we insert temporary electrodes under the skin near your spine to contact the nerves suspected of causing your pain. The battery and generator are worn on a belt or taped to your body during the trial period.

An SCS trial typically takes five days. The initial placement of the temporary stimulator system usually takes less than 30 minutes, and it’s easily removed if SCS fails to produce results.

At the end of a successful trial period, you should notice:

  • Pain relief by at least 50%
  • Better sleep
  • Less reliance on pain medication
  • Improved quality of life

If you’re happy with the results of your spinal cord stimulation trial, the next step is full implantation. We place permanent electrodes and the generator pack under your skin, usually in the buttock area. Recovery takes 24-48 hours before you return to your usual routine.

Get pain relief today

Are you experiencing chronic pain that doesn’t respond to standard treatments? Call or click today to make an appointment with the spinal cord stimulation specialists at Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management.