Spinal Cord Stimulator

What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator

A spinal cord stimulator produces electrical impulses that interfere with the direct transmission of pain signals traveling along nerves in the spine that deliver pain signals to the brain. Leads are introduced into the problem area in the spine, stimulating the spinal cord and interrupting pain transmission. Painful stimuli are then replaced with a mild tingling sensation, or even little sensation at all, in the areas where the pain was previously felt.

The strength of the stimulator can be changed if the setting is not optimal for the patient. The system can also be turned on or off as necessary to achieve pain relief when needed. Lumbar spine pain is particularly successful with spinal cord stimulation. Not only does the device reduce or eliminate the pain but it also decreases the need for pain medication taken by patients with chronic back pain problems.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Pain medications may include prescription drugs such as oral steroids, opioid analgesics for short-term use, and muscle relaxers. OTC remedies include NSAIDs like naproxen and ibuprofen.

Epidural Steroid Injections use a steroid and anesthetic to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the spinal cord. Used for various back pain causes, including radiculitis, compressed nerves, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, and sciatica.

With a doctor's approval, alternative therapies can be added to your back pain treatment plan. These include acupuncture, hypnosis, chiropractic care, Reiki, and massage therapy, which can relax muscles and improve circulation.

Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles of the spine, increase core strength, improve aerobic conditioning, and teach safe movement habits. Recommended for those with lower back pain.

Spinal Cord Stimulation Surgery

Conditions where a spinal cord stimulator may be recommended:

  • Herniated Disc
  • Pinched/Compressed Nerve
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Radiculitis
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Before Surgery

Before undergoing spinal cord stimulation (SCS) surgery, it is important to prepare properly. You should discuss the procedure with your doctor, including the benefits, risks, and expectations for the surgery. Your doctor may also advise you on how to prepare for the surgery and what to expect during the recovery period.

Be sure to inform your doctor if you have any metal in your body, such as a pacemaker or metal implants. Your doctor may also ask you to stop taking certain medications before the surgery, such as blood thinners, pain medications, or anti-inflammatory drugs.

Before the surgery, you should make arrangements for transportation to and from the hospital and arrange for someone to assist you at home after the surgery, if necessary.

You will be asked to fast for a certain period before the surgery, as instructed by your doctor.

What Happens During Spinal Cord Stimulator Surgery

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a surgical procedure that uses electrical stimulation to relieve chronic pain in the back, legs, or arms. The procedure involves implanting electrodes along the spinal cord and connecting them to a pulse generator placed under the skin of the abdomen or buttocks. The generator sends electrical impulses to the electrodes, blocking or reducing the sensation of pain. SCS is typically used for patients who have not responded to other treatments for their pain, such as medication or physical therapy. The procedure is minimally invasive and typically performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. After the surgery, the patient may need to undergo physical therapy to help adjust to the stimulation and maximize its effects. Overall, SCS can provide significant pain relief for patients suffering from chronic pain and improve their quality of life.

After Surgery

After undergoing spinal cord stimulation surgery, your doctor will monitor you for any complications, such as infection or device malfunctions, and will advise you on how to manage any symptoms.


Your doctor will advise you on how to manage any pain or discomfort you may experience after the surgery. Over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription pain medications may be recommended.

You may need to undergo physical therapy to help adjust to the stimulation and to maximize its effects. Your therapist will help you perform exercises that will help you regain strength and mobility.

You should avoid any strenuous activities during recovery, such as heavy lifting or intense exercise, for a period of time after the surgery. Your doctor will advise you on when it is safe to resume normal activities.


Like all surgical procedures, spinal cord stimulation surgery carries certain risks and potential complications. Some of the most common risks associated with the surgery include infection, device malfunction, lead migration, nerve damage, allergic reactions, and inadequate pain relief.


It is important to discuss any risks and potential complications with your doctor before undergoing spinal cord stimulation surgery. By understanding the risks and working closely with your doctor, you can help ensure a successful outcome and enjoy the benefits of reduced pain and improved quality of life.

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