Suffering After Undergoing Surgery for Back Pain? Spinal Cord Stimulators Can Provide a Solution

Spinal Cord Stimulators

Are you struggling with pain and other uncomfortable symptoms following back surgery? Failed back surgery syndrome, also called FBSS, isn’t actually a syndrome. It’s a term used to describe the condition of individuals who continue to suffer from debilitating symptoms after surgery. FBSS can leave you wondering if you’ll ever find the relief you need.

Dr. Pai and our team at Pain Management Group want to give you some essential information that will help you understand FBSS and spinal cord stimulation so you can decide whether it’s the best next step toward your back pain relief.  

Reasons for pain after back surgery

Back surgery is performed to repair the injury or structures in your back that cause discomfort. This might have been a pinched nerve or an unstable joint in your spine.

However, sometimes the pain continues after surgery. You might never know precisely why you keep having pain, but sometimes it’s because the part of your spine that was operated on wasn’t actually causing your pain. Regardless of the reason, you want to find relief.

Spinal cord stimulation 101

Pain is usually treated as a symptom, not a condition. However, when you have long-term back pain, the focus of treatment changes. The goal is to find a way to alleviate your pain so you can participate in life again without discomfort and other debilitating symptoms.

A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is a device that delivers a low-voltage electrical current to your spine. The electricity stops the pain messages from traveling up to your brain, telling your mind to react to the pain. Without the pain signal, you don’t feel discomfort.

It’s critical to understand that an SCS doesn’t cure the underlying cause of your symptoms. It merely stops your brain from receiving the painful stimuli.

How is an SCS placed?

Stimulators are placed in a two-step process. First, you go through a trial to determine if an SCS will give you the relief you need. If this step is successful, you move on to a permanent device. Let’s explore this two-step process a bit further.

Step 1: Trial device

During the SCS trial, small wires are temporarily placed along your spinal cord and then connected to the trial stimulator on the outside of your body. This procedure takes about 30 to 90 minutes. You go home on the same day as the procedure and will use the trial device for up to 10 days.

While the trial system is in place, you should do your normal activities of daily living. Try to perform tasks that would typically cause pain, such as climbing stairs, standing in one place for a prolonged period, or getting ready for your day. This helps Dr. Pai know if a permanent device is right for you.  

After your trial phase is over, you meet with Dr. Pai to evaluate how you did with the trial SCS. If the temporary system provided adequate pain relief, Dr. Pai and your care team will discuss the placement of a permanent system and make sure you’re an ideal candidate.

Step 2: Permanent device

During this procedure, an incision is made on your back, and thin wires are placed alongside your spine. A second incision is made on your low abdomen or buttock area. This is where the stimulator is placed. Dr. Pai then connects the wires to the neurostimulator and closes both incisions with sutures.

Most people go home the same day as the procedure. However, sometimes individuals need to stay overnight to make sure the recovery is going as expected. You meet with Dr. Pai for a post-operative appointment about a week after surgery so he can assess the incisions and answer any questions you might have.

Am I a good candidate?

Dr. Pai and our care team want to make sure you have the best chance of success after an SCS. When you meet with him, he asks you questions about your medical history and any previous treatments such as physical therapy, pain medications, or surgery.

A few factors that might make you a good candidate include:

If you’re ready to explore the options of a permanent spinal cord stimulator, give our office a call today or use this website to schedule your consultation in our Mishawaka, Indiana, office.

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