Chronic pain affects millions of Americans, taking a toll physically and emotionally, too. While pain medicine can help, most people need higher and higher doses to stay on top of their symptoms, increasing their risks of serious complications.
But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer — there is an alternative. It’s called spinal cord stimulation, and for many men and women, it can be a highly effective method for relieving persistent pain.
As a top-rated pain management specialist with offices in Carmel, Indianapolis, and Kokomo, Indiana, Jonathan Gentile, MD, uses state-of-the-art spinal cord stimulation technology to help patients find relief for their chronic pain symptoms. Here’s how to tell if the treatment is a good choice for you.
How spinal cord stimulation works
Your spinal canal is like a “nerve highway,” carrying major nerves from your brain to every other part of your body. Nerves exit your spine at specific areas, then travel to your arms, legs, organs, and other parts of your body. Some of these nerves carry pain signals, while other nerves control muscle movement.
If one of these nerves gets irritated or damaged, you can have back or neck pain, along with pain, numbness, and other symptoms in your arms, legs, or any other area that’s “controlled” by the affected nerve.
Spinal cord stimulation uses a tiny implantable device to block those painful nerve signals. The device emits electrical impulses at very low levels — levels that you control through a separate handheld unit. These tiny electrical impulses disrupt nerve signaling, preventing your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain.
Spinal cord stimulation candidates
Spinal cord stimulation provides meaningful, long-lasting relief for people with chronic pain from issues like:
- Chronic back or neck pain
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Chronic pain after back surgery
- Degenerative disc disease
- Epidural fibrosis
- Arachnoiditis (painful inflammation of the spinal membrane)
- Chronic sciatica or other chronic radiating (radicular) pain
- Phantom limb pain
- Pain following a shingles outbreak (postherpetic neuralgia)
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Chronic abdominal or perineal pain
- Some types of angina (heart pain)
Typically, spinal cord stimulation is recommended when more conservative treatment options, like pain medicine or physical therapy, have failed to offer relief.
One big benefit of spinal cord stimulation is that you can have a “trial run” before the device is surgically implanted. This initial test allows you and Dr. Gentile to evaluate the treatment to make sure it’s right for you before he implants the actual device.
For your “test drive,” Dr. Gentile inserts electrical leads through your skin to the space around your spinal cord (the epidural space). These leads are connected to a device you use to control the electrical impulses.
The leads remain implanted for about 5-7 days so you can evaluate how well the device works for managing your symptoms. If the device is effective, Dr. Gentile removes the temporary electrodes and surgically implants the actual device.
Find out if spinal cord stimulation can help you
Spinal cord stimulation offers long-term, meaningful relief for many people suffering from chronic pain — and it offers results without invasive spinal surgery or high doses of pain medication. To learn more about spinal cord stimulation and if it’s a good choice for you, book an appointment with Dr. Gentile online or over the phone today.