How Does a Trial Spinal Cord Stimulation Work?

How Does a Trial Spinal Cord Stimulation Work?

Are you looking for a drug-free way to alleviate chronic pain? If an underlying condition is causing ongoing pain or if you’ve had back surgery that’s failed, you may be a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation (SCS). 

The pain specialists at Boston PainCare in Waltham, Natick, and Concord, Massachusetts, use the Nevro® HF10TM high-frequency spinal cord stimulator to block the pain signals the nerves in your spine send to your brain, stopping the feelings of pain in their tracks. This is the only SCS device the FDA has designated as offering “superior” relief for chronic back and leg pain. 

But before your doctor implants a permanent device, our team wants to make sure that SCS will help you get the relief you need. To do that, we give you a trial spinal cord stimulator. Here’s a closer look at the procedure and how it works.    

Candidates for spinal cord stimulation

While everyone has different needs and benefits from customized treatment plans, spinal cord stimulation may be good for you have:

The team at Boston PainCare carefully evaluates your symptoms, medical history — including therapies or surgeries you’ve had in the past to address your pain, and conducts any additional testing, such as MRI or ultrasound, before recommending any course of treatment. 

Understanding the spinal cord stimulation trial

To make sure you’ll experience relief from your pain with the Nevro HF10 high-frequency spinal cord stimulator, you’ll begin treatment with a trial that lasts seven days. Here’s a look at the steps involved in your SCS trial: 

  1. You receive IV sedation and a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable during the outpatient procedure 
  2. Your provider uses fluoroscopy (X-ray imaging) to place two small catheter leads near your spinal cord using a small needle  
  3. The leads are connected to an external battery and transmitter that send electrical pulses to the leads near your spinal cord
  4. Once these are placed, you receive a hand-held controller (typically worn on a belt) that allows you to adjust the stimulation you receive
  5. You then return home and use the temporary spinal cord stimulator as needed for about a week to determine whether or not it gives you any pain relief

Your provider may ask you to track the stimulation settings you use to evaluate how well your pain was relieved with different settings at different times. 

Next steps after your spinal cord stimulation trial

Depending on the results of your SCS trial, your provider may recommend a permanent stimulator. Typically, the permanent high-frequency spinal cord stimulator works well for our patients who experience at least 50% pain relief. 

If you don’t experience relief during the SCS trial, your Boston PainCare pain management expert may recommend other treatment options based on your specific underlying condition and symptoms, including:

Learn more about spinal cord stimulation and whether it’s right for you by contacting the Boston PainCare office nearest you in Waltham, Natick, or Concord, Massachusetts.  

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