5 Signs You’re a Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation

5 Signs You’re a Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, including “high-impact” chronic pain that makes everyday activities difficult. While some people with chronic pain find relief with pain medicine or physical therapy, others have a much harder time managing their symptoms. That’s when spinal cord stimulation could help.

Spinal cord stimulation uses a tiny, implantable device to block pain signals between specific nerves and your brain. You control the amount of pain relief by using a handheld controller.

With offices in Carmel, Indianapolis, and Kokomo, Indiana, Jonathan Gentile, MD, has significant experience using spinal cord stimulation for patients with specific types of chronic pain. Here’s how to tell if you might be a good candidate.

1. Conservative treatments haven’t helped

Some people with chronic back pain find their symptoms improve with conservative, noninvasive treatments, like physical therapy and medicines to reduce inflammation. Those are the first options Dr. Gentile uses for his patients.

Sometimes, though, these options don’t provide enough — or any — relief. In that case, depending on the type of pain you have and what’s causing it, Dr. Gentile might recommend spinal cord stimulation. Because it works by blocking pain signals in the first place, spinal cord stimulation is often a good choice for patients who don’t find relief from conservative treatments.

2. You have nerve-related pain, like peripheral neuropathy

Your nervous system is divided into two main parts: the central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord, and your peripheral nervous system, which includes all the other nerves in your body. 

Peripheral neuropathy is a common medical problem for millions of people, including many people with diabetes, spinal conditions, arthritis, and other illnesses. Injuries and even some types of medications can cause neuropathy, too.

Spinal cord stimulation can be very effective in managing the painful symptoms of peripheral neuropathy because it acts directly on the nerves that are causing pain, preventing those signals from reaching the brain so they can’t be “interpreted” as pain.

3. You have ischemic pain following a stroke

Chronic pain is a relatively common complication following a stroke. Considering that a stroke affects your brain — a part of your central nervous system — it’s not so surprising that afterward, many people experience a wide array of pain symptoms, ranging from sharp, electricity-like pain to dull, throbbing aches.

Although medications are largely ineffective in relieving this type of pain, spinal cord stimulation can be very helpful in targeting pain symptoms following a stroke.

4. You have complex regional pain syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is characterized by widespread pain that can be difficult to control with medication and physical therapy. Triggered by a prior injury, CRPS has an acute form and a chronic form that lasts longer than six months. 

Numerous studies have shown spinal cord stimulation can be very effective in helping patients finally find relief for their symptoms. One recent study found spinal cord stimulation resulted in significant long-term improvements in pain intensity, depression, and quality of life among CRPS patients.

5. You have failed back surgery syndrome

Failed back surgery syndrome is defined as pain that persists after back surgery, and it affects as many as 40% of people who’ve had back surgery, particularly surgery in the lower back or lumbar spine. 

Failed back surgery syndrome doesn’t mean there was a problem with the surgery itself. Instead, it’s often related to problems with healing or nerve or muscle symptoms that happen after surgery. Spinal cord stimulation can be very effective in helping you find relief from persistent aches and pains.

Testing effectiveness: The trial run

Of course, one of the best ways to definitively tell if you’re a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation is to have a “test run” of the device. During this trial treatment, Dr. Gentile inserts the wire leads into an area near the nerves that are causing your symptoms. The other ends of the leads are connected to an external device that you use to control the level of pain management. 

After a trial of 5-7 days, you’ll discuss your experience with Dr. Gentile. If the trial run is successful, you’ll return to have the device surgically implanted. '

If you have chronic back pain and conservative treatment options haven’t helped, spinal cord stimulation could be the solution you’re looking for. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Gentile today.

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