Back Pain Relief: Spinal Cord Stimulation
The brain and spinal cord can experience thousands of different sensations, but only one at a time. Using spinal cord stimulation, we implant a wire through the epidural space (the area that sits below the bone and above the spinal cord in your back). We attach a small generator that makes the wire vibrate in your back. Your body feels the vibration sense instead of the spine pain you had before. In a way, you’re kind of tricking your brain into not feeling spine pain anymore.
We do a trial. We thread two wires through a needle and up the epidural space below the bone and above the spinal cord in your back. Once we get the leads where they need to be, we wake you up in the operating room and ask you to identify the sensations. We let you go back to sleep and secure those leads to your back, usually with a little suture, and attach them to a generator about the size of an old pager. I know I’m dating myself, but imagine a very small cell phone that you can wear in your pocket. You’ll go home for four to seven days and go through everything you would normally do. When you come back, I want one of two answers from you: this system changed my life and I have back pain relief, or it didn’t help at all. If you think it changed your life, we move forward with the permanent implantation of the spinal cord stimulator.
I make an incision in your back about an inch and a half long, and another incision about two inches long down your lower back or upper part of your bottom. I thread those leads up again, secure them under the skin and place the generator (about the size of two half dollars) in the pocket we’ve created in the low back. Then I connect the wires and send you home.
If you’re considering a spinal cord stimulator, talk to your physician. This is a procedure that’s done more regularly that you would imagine. I do three or four procedures a month. You want to make sure someone’s done them before. And again, ask questions.