What Is Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)?

[fa icon="calendar"] May 31, 2019 6:28:04 PM / by Dr. Myrdalis Diaz-Ramirez

Dr. Myrdalis Diaz-Ramirez

Doctor showing her patient a spine model in medical office

The history of using electricity as a pain treatment approach dates back hundreds—possibly even thousands—of years. Earlier civilizations that lived by the water are believed to have started the practice of electricity as a therapy with the use of ... a fish.

It was discovered that the Mediterranean torpedo fish, a member of the electric ray family, offered surprising treatment benefits for people suffering from a variety of painful ailments. These cultures realized that, when applied to the afflicted body part, the electricity released from the torpedo fish would help relieve chronic aches and discomfort.

Fortunately, modern medicine has granted us access to a far more advanced use of electricity in pain management technologies and innovations than what our ancestors caught in their fishing nets, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units. This battery-operated device is used by physical therapists to lower discomfort levels. This electrical pain management tool has become so popular that we can easily buy various versions online or at the shopping mall.

What is "Spinal Cord Stimulation?" - It's Targeted, Safe Pain Management

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS)  is also a therapy that uses electricity, but in a much more targeted way. I refer to it as a pacemaker for pain, because it uses a technology that is almost identical to a cardiac pacemaker. However, instead of placing it in the heart, we place the thin cables by an area of the spinal cord to be stimulated with the purpose of either substituting pain with a pleasant sensation or blocking the feeling of pain.

If you have seen a pregnant woman having an epidural catheter placed for the pain of labor, you have seen that this is a very safe approach to manage discomfort. With spinal cord stimulation, instead of  using medication like we do in the traditional epidural catheter placement, our catheter is a lead we connect to obtain electrical stimulation and control the pain.

Typically, SCS is mainly used to treat nerve pain in an extremity or pain that has not responded to surgery, like neck or low back spine surgery. Many patients will continue to have surgery after surgery with the promise that the next one will be the one to take the pain away, often without achieving desired results. That’s where the team of experienced interventional pain physicians at Florida Pain Relief Centers steps in; our licensed and board certified clinicians provide this non-medication alternative to recurrent spine surgery to treat these complex, acute, and chronic types of pain.

Some of the Biggest Pain Management Benefits of SCS

Opting for spinal cord stimulation delivers several essential patient benefits. One major advantage of SCS over repeated spine surgery is that you, as a patient, can try the therapy before you opt for an implant. Once you and your doctor have determined that this therapy helps during the trial period, the permanent placement is performed as an outpatient surgery allowing you to go home the same day.

Additionally, modern stimulators have evolved since first becoming available, enabling patients to have MRIs with most models. The level of programming has also evolved, delivering more innovative ways of programming in order to achieve relief. Some units are even rechargeable. While there are units that require no charging, these don’t last as long and require battery replacements more often.

Are You a Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?

The best first step to determine whether you are a candidate is to talk to your interventional pain physician. Florida Pain Relief Centers can help. Beyond evaluating you for your pain condition, our personnel can also determine current insurance coverage for you. We can help develop a personalized care approach that reduces pain levels and increases function for an improved overall quality of life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our physicians.  

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Topics: Spinal Health

Dr. Myrdalis Diaz-Ramirez

Written by Dr. Myrdalis Diaz-Ramirez

Dr. Myrdalis Diaz-Ramirez is a board-certified pain management specialist and anesthesiologist. With over 10 years’ field experience, Dr. Diaz-Ramirez is an innovator in the mild pain management procedure, holding the distinction of being one of the first physicians to perform it in Sarasota County.