Understanding Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS), a type of neurostimulation, is a pain management therapy proven to be effective for many chronic pain sufferers.1 SCS helps mask pain by blocking pain signals before they reach the brain. It is often used to manage chronic pain in the back, arms or legs.
If you have been living with chronic pain and your current pain relief therapies are not working, SCS may be an option for you.
How spinal cord stimulation works
SCS works by intercepting pain signals before they reach the brain. To do this, a doctor implants a small device in the body. This device replaces pain with a different feeling. Some people describe this feeling as a gentle massaging sensation or simply the absence of pain.
Pain signals travel up the spinal cord to the brain.
A generator sends pulses to a lead (a thin wire).
The lead delivers these pulses to nerves along the spinal cord.
The pulses block the pain signals before they reach the brain.
The painful feeling is replaced with more comfortable sensations, or nothing at all.
Spinal cord stimulation system components
An SCS system is made up of parts that are designed to work together to help you manage your pain:
- Generator: A small device, similar to a pacemaker, that sends pulses to the leads. Generators contain either a rechargeable or nonrechargeable (primary cell) battery. They are placed inside your body, usually in your abdomen or buttock area.
- Leads: Thin wires that deliver the pulses from the generator to nerves along the spinal cord. Leads are placed inside your body in an area along the spinal column called the epidural space.
- Programmer: A handheld device similar to a remote control that lets you adjust how the stimulation feels.
- Charger: If the system is rechargeable, it will come with a portable device that allows you to recharge your generator’s battery.
Is spinal cord stimulation right for you?
SCS may be an option if you have:
- Chronic pain in your back, arms or legs that has lasted at least six months
- Neuropathic pain (pain marked by burning, tingling or numbness)
- Little or no relief from surgery or other pain management options such as pain medications, nerve blocks or physical therapy
Spinal cord stimulaton is not right for everyone. Only your doctor or pain specialist can determine if this type of neurostimulation may work for you. To help you prepare for a visit with your doctor, complete the chronic pain assessment.
Spinal cord stimulation is not advised if you are unable to operate the system or do not receive effective pain relief during the temporary evaluation period. Like any surgical procedure, spinal cord stimulation has risks. Talk to your doctor about complications related to the procedure and/or device, which include infection, swelling, bruising, undesirable changes in stimulation and loss of strength or use in an affected limb or muscle group (e.g., paralysis). See more risks.
Discover what receiving neurostimulation therapy can involve.
2. Advanced Neuromodulation Systems. (2006). Prospective, multi-centered, single arm study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of Genesis™ implantable pulse generator in combination with ANS percutaneous leads for the management of chronic pain of the trunk and/or limbs. Plano, TX.