How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial Work?

Dec 01, 2023
How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial Work?
Tired of living with chronic pain? A spinal cord stimulator might be the answer. Find out what’s involved with a spinal cord stimulation trial, and whether it might be the answer for you.

If you’re one of the millions of people in the United States who live with chronic pain, you’ve probably tried the typical treatments. For example, many pain sufferers try over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy, massage, chiropractic care, injections, and more in search of the solution that will help them attain enduring relief. Yet, these methods don’t always work well for everyone.

One innovative pain relief approach that can help address treatment-resistant chronic pain is spinal cord stimulation

If you’re ready to minimize chronic pain and enhance your quality of life, Dr. Sergio Alvarado and our expert team at Spine & Pain Center of San Antonio can help. Here, we discuss the ins and outs of spinal cord stimulation, including how we use a spinal cord stimulator trial to see if this groundbreaking pain management technique is right for you. 

What is spinal cord stimulation? 

A spinal cord stimulation (SCS) device is an implantable neuromodulation medical implement that reduces pain. It works by interrupting the pain signals between the affected nerves and your brain, so you feel less pain. 

SCS comes in three forms, including a battery-operated model, a remote control device, and a fully wired version. To determine if SCS is right for you, you need to meet a few criteria.

For example, our doctors will evaluate your medical history and likely recommend an MRI or other diagnostic testing to perform a comprehensive assessment of your exact case. 

What is a spinal cord stimulation trial? 

If you meet the criteria and want to try this innovative treatment, we implant a temporary spinal cord stimulator. This procedure is performed in less than an hour with the aid of a local anesthesia in an outpatient setting. 

We place small electrode leads at the area of your pain symptoms. These leads connect to a small external device that delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord. You work with our team to fine-tune the settings. 

Next, you wear this device for up to a week, tracking your pain levels and symptoms as you go along. At the end of the trial, you coordinate with Dr. Alvarado about your experience.

Afterward, we remove the electrode leads, and there’s a post-trial assessment where you discuss your experience. If all goes well, we can discuss permanent SCS implementation.

The benefits and risks of spinal cord stimulation 

SCS can be highly effective at managing chronic pain. It’s less invasive than surgery and drug-free. Many people find it reduces their pain and improves their quality of life.

Yet, there are potential risks, including infection, discomfort, electrode lead movement, and persistent tingling or buzzing sensations that some find uncomfortable. This is partially why it’s important to undergo a SCS trial phase before committing to a permanent SCS.

If you determine that SCS is right for you, follow-up care is essential. We tweak your stimulator settings and monitor your condition for any potential issues. 

If you’re interested in learning more about spinal cord stimulation, we’re here to help. Call or click online to book an appointment at your nearest Spine & Pain Center of San Antonio office in Live Oak or San Antonio, Texas, today.