A spinal cord stimulator is a small device that’s implanted near your spine. It uses low-level electric currents to interfere with pain signals in the nerves of your spinal cord, with the goal of stopping chronic back pain.
But pain is highly personal, and what works for some people doesn’t work for others. Fortunately, you can try spinal cord stimulation without fully committing to a permanent procedure. Trial implantation allows you to test the therapy out so you can decide if it’s right for you.
Eric Fanaee, MD, and our team specialize in spinal cord stimulation, and we’ve helped countless people find lasting relief from their pain. If you’re considering a spinal cord stimulator for your chronic back pain, here’s what you can expect from your trial.
Before your spinal cord stimulator trial
Doctors generally recommend spinal cord stimulators for people with significant back pain who haven’t found relief with more conservative treatment options. To help you decide if spinal cord stimulation is right for you, Dr. Fanaee starts with a comprehensive consultation.
He reviews your medical history, your symptoms, and any treatments you’ve tried in the past. Then he helps you set goals for your spinal cord stimulation trial. It’s important to understand that this therapy may not completely eliminate your pain, but pain reduction of 50% or more is possible.
If you decide you want to try spinal cord stimulation, we schedule a trial period for you to test the therapy. The trial stimulator mimics a permanent stimulator, but without surgically implanting the entire device, so you can find out how this therapy works for you.
The implantation procedure
We perform spinal cord stimulator implantation in our office. It’s an outpatient procedure that usually takes 30-90 minutes.
On the day of your procedure, you lie face down on an X-ray table. We apply local anesthesia along your spine, and we may give you a sedative medication to help you remain comfortable.
Dr. Fanaee uses a fluoroscope to see the structures of your spine and guides a hollow needle to your spinal canal. He inserts leads — thin, insulated wires with electrical contacts — and then sends a small electrical current to the leads. He asks you to provide feedback about your pain level. Using your input, he ensures the leads are in the best location for maximum pain relief.
During a trial, you don’t have the battery that transmits the current through the wires implanted beneath your skin; you wear it on a belt. Once the leads are in place, Dr. Fanaee connects them to the transmitter, which has a handheld controller, and tapes the wires to your back so they don’t move during the trial period. Then, you’re moved to a recovery room to let the anesthesia wear off.
During your spinal cord stimulator trial period
We teach you how to use the handheld controller before you leave our office. In general, you can turn it on or off and adjust the duration and intensity of electrical pulses to control your back pain. Over the course of the following days, pay attention to your pain levels to evaluate how well the spinal cord stimulator works to address your pain.
Most trial periods last around one week. At the end of your trial, you have a follow-up appointment to discuss how it went. If you’re happy with the level of pain relief you achieved, Dr. Fanaee may recommend permanent implantation, which he performs with a minimally invasive surgical procedure — inserting permanent leads and implanting the transmitter in your abdomen or buttocks.
When you’ve exhausted your other treatment options and you’re still suffering with back pain, spinal cord stimulation could be the solution you need. Dr. Fanaee and our team are here for you. Call us at 631-265-2020 or request a consultation online now.