What Can I Expect During a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial?

What Can I Expect During a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial?

You’ve been struggling with pain that’s resisted your efforts at relief, so now you’re considering spinal cord stimulation. Before we implant this device, we conduct a trial period — and here’s what you can expect.

You wake up with pain and go to bed with the same, and you’re tired of the everyday battle for relief. Now, you’re considering spinal cord stimulation. While this approach to pain management has helped scores of patients, the best way to determine whether it’s right for you is through a trial period.

At Spine & Orthopedic Center, our own Dr. Rajiv Sood completed a fellowship in interventional pain management. Under his leadership, our team has considerable experience helping patients to lead lives free from pain. 

As part of our extensive suite of interventional pain management techniques, we offer spinal cord stimulators (SCSs), which are effective and medication-free solutions for chronic pain. One comprehensive study concluded that “there is little doubt that SCS represents a safe and effective therapy for patients with neuropathic pain conditions.”

Why a trial period?

A straightforward answer to this question is to ensure that you respond well to spinal cord stimulation. An SCS is a device that we implant into your body — there are leads that we place into the area where your nerves are overactive and a small generator that we implant into your abdomen or buttocks. The generator supplies the energy to the electrodes, which emit electrical impulses designed to disrupt the pain messaging between your nerves and your brain.

Before we implant the generator, however, we want to make sure that the neuromodulation is effective — and by effective, we’re looking for at least a 50% reduction in pain symptoms.

To determine this, we conduct a trial period during which we thread the electrodes into position and then supply you with an external generator that you wear on a special belt.

Installing your temporary spinal cord stimulator

When you come in for your trial SCS, we guide the electrodes into position using fluoroscopy (live X-ray). During this placement, we will test the leads by running mild currents through them to ensure proper placement. Participation in this is paramount as you’ll report whether you feel a mild tingling sensation.

Once we’re satisfied with the position of the electrodes, we instruct you on using the external generator. One of the many benefits of spinal cord stimulation is that you control the electrical impulses. With a controller, you can dictate when to activate the neuromodulation and at what level (within a safe, predetermined range, of course).

Your trial period

Over the next 4-7 days, you will give your SCS a trial run. You should use this time to gauge whether the system works, which means going about your regular routine and activating the SCS when needed.

If, after your trial period, we determine that the SCS worked well in relieving your symptoms, we schedule you for permanent implantation.

If we find that neuromodulation wasn’t effective, rest assured that we will continue to explore other options.

If you have more questions about spinal cord stimulation or you’d like to undergo a trial, please contact our office in Jonesboro, Georgia, to schedule a consultation.