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Should You Consider a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

If you have a condition like arthritis, sciatica, a herniated disc, or other condition causing back, neck, or leg pain, you want relief. Chronic back pain is a leading cause of workplace disability claims. It can stop you in your tracks. Lasting pain can also derail your ability to enjoy life. Perhaps you’d normally be out playing tennis or golf, but you’ve had to curtail it. 

You’ve probably tried traditional and some alternative therapies: stretching, physical therapy, medication — maybe even platelet-rich plasma or acupuncture. So far, nothing has worked. You may be a candidate for a spinal cord stimulator. 

Daniel Loder, MD, double board-certified pain management specialist and anesthesiologist, is committed to helping you regain a better quality of life by relieving your chronic pain. He can recommend a spinal cord stimulator if other therapies have failed.

What is a spinal cord stimulator? 

A spinal cord stimulator is a medical device that Dr. Loder places just underneath your skin in the area where the pain is located, especially the lower back or neck. Having a device planted inside of you may sound radical, but this technology has been around for several decades. It’s been used for chronic pain since 1967 and was approved by the FDA in 1989 as a method of pain relief where there’s nerve damage. The technical name for what occurs during spinal cord stimulation is neuromodulation, which changes nerve cell activity. 

How does a spinal cord stimulator work?

The spinal cord stimulator has two parts that are implanted in your body: electrodes on tiny wires and a battery pack. Dr. Loder puts the electrodes in the epidural space between your spinal cord and your vertebrae. 

You have a remote control with an antenna that you can hold in your hand and use to signal the stimulator to send electrical impulses to the painful area. Researchers think that the stimulation changes the pain signals before they move up the spinal cord to your brain.

You may ask: Does the battery need recharging? That’s a good question. The answer is yes. Some of the devices have rechargeable batteries while others do not. Battery life depends on usage. The device should last several years. Dr. Loder reviews the types of spinal cord stimulators and the pros and cons of each kind with you.

When do I know it’s time to consider a spinal cord stimulator? 

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts a minimum of three months. Your pain may have existed well beyond that timeframe because you’ve tried other therapies. 

There are some contraindications to having a spinal cord stimulator (for example, already having a pacemaker). Following are instances in which a spinal cord stimulator may be the answer for you

Failed back surgery

If you’ve already had surgery on your back or neck, but it didn’t ease your pain and possibly made it worse, you may be a good candidate for a spinal cord stimulator. This is a top reason patients try the treatment. 

Complex regional pain syndrome 

CRPS describes a burning type of pain that moves to an arm or a leg. You may develop CRPS after a traumatic accident, for example. 

Arachnoiditis

This is a painful condition caused by inflammation of the arachnoid membrane, which covers and protects the nerves in your spinal cord.

Peripheral neuropathy

If you have diabetes, you have almost a one in two chance of developing peripheral neuropathy, which causes burning pain in your legs or feet that occurs when the nerves die. Cancer treatments can also cause neuropathy

Heart pain 

If you have angina, you may have chest pain along with shortness of breath. If other treatments don’t work for your angina, spinal cord stimulation may be an option. 

Call or book an appointment online with Dr. Daniel Loder today for relief of your chronic pain.

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