Back pain is a common medical complaint, and data show that most people will experience some degree of back pain at some point during their life. But for about 16 million people, back pain is chronic or persistent, causing significant symptoms and interfering with everyday routines.
Pain medication and therapy may help some women and men manage their symptoms, but frequently, these conservative treatment options just don’t deliver the relief people need to feel better. Fortunately, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) can provide an effective solution for many patients.
As a top-ranked pain management specialist with offices in Spring, Houston, Baytown, Willis, and The Woodlands, Texas, Zaid Malik, MD, uses state-of-the-art spinal cord stimulation to relieve chronic back pain symptoms so patients at Superior Pain Relief can enjoy more active, more comfortable lifestyles. Here’s how we determine if SCS might help you.
Quick facts about spinal cord stimulation
Stretching from the base of your skull all the way down your back, your spine is like a highway for nerve signals traveling between your brain and every other part of your body. Nerves exit the spinal column at spaces between each pair of spinal bones (vertebrae) before traveling to your extremities and organs.
Some nerves control your muscles, while others are responsible for carrying pain messages to your brain. When a nerve becomes compressed or irritated, you can experience painful symptoms anywhere along the path of that nerve.
While some pain signals happen as a result of an injury, nerves also can be overstimulated, which means they can fire pain signals even when there’s no stimulus causing discomfort. This is what happens to people with conditions like fibromyalgia or complex regional pain syndrome, and it can happen with other types of nerve injuries, too.
Spinal cord stimulation works by interrupting pain signals so they can’t travel to and from your brain. Treatment involves a tiny implantable device that emits electrical impulses designed to interfere with normal nerve signal transmission.
Best candidates for spinal cord stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation can be an excellent choice for many people who suffer from chronic pain that conservative options like medication, injections, or physical therapy don’t sufficiently relieve. SCS is especially suitable for people with issues like:
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Degenerative disc disease
- Chronic sciatica
- Phantom limb pain
- Shingles-related pain (postherpetic neuralgia)
- Chronic neck pain or back pain
- Persistent pain after back injury or surgery
- Spinal membrane inflammation (arachnoiditis)
Prior to implanting the spinal cord stimulator device, you undergo a SCS trial to ensure the treatment will provide you with the relief you’re looking for.
Spinal cord stimulation trial
During this trial run of the device, Dr. Malik inserts thin electrical leads to the space around your spinal cord where your pain originates. These leads are connected to a temporary, external stimulator that you typically wear on a belt around your waist. It has a handheld device for you to control the electrical impulses.
Most patients use the device for 5-7 days to determine its effectiveness. If you decide that the device sufficiently relieves your pain, Dr. Malik surgically implants your permanent stimulator device, usually near your buttocks or your belly.
During surgery, a special type of X-ray ensures the device and the leads are optimally placed. Most patients have outpatient surgery, but in some cases, Dr. Malik may recommend an overnight hospital stay. Recovery typically takes about 10 days.
Learn more about spinal cord stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation offers long-term relief for many people suffering from chronic back pain. To find out if it’s a good choice for you, contact the nearest office to see the team at Superior Pain Relief.