Neurosurgery has played a big role in saving lives. Chronic pain refers to a persistent long-standing pain that goes beyond the expected recovery period. In most circumstances, chronic pain is usually accompanied by a chronic health problem. Since this kind of pain is not as a result of an injury and neither is it protective, it is referred to as pathological. This kind of pain is not treated as a symptom but as a condition.
It is possible to confuse chronic back pain with other spinal cord ailments such as spondylolysis. The most common way to tell the difference is that when one is suffering from spondylolysis, the symptoms are rarely noticed. It is also worth noting that spondylolysis is rare and only 5-6% of the population suffer from it and 10-15% develop the symptoms.
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a technique that relieves pain in the spinal cord. It works by delivering low voltage electric currents to the spinal cord continuously. This is the most common neurostimulation procedure that involves placing an implant in the patient’s spinal cord to relieve pain. Annually, more than 50,000 neurostimulator’s are implanted globally. These implants are placed in the spinal cord through neurosurgery.
Types Of Spinal Cord Stimulation Devices
Research in neurosurgery has played a big role in developing devices used to relieve chronic back pain. These devices include:
- Radio Frequency Systems: Radio frequency systems are powerful and they are mostly used in situations where the cases are complicated and the pain is very extreme. A patient fitted with an RF system requires an external source of power in order to activate the stimulation process.
- Conventional Systems: These systems do not require a lot of effort from the patient especially in terms of maintenance. The system requires a small surgery to replace the power source whenever it is depleted.
- Rechargeable Systems: These are the latest SCS devices. The patient with this device is responsible for recharging the system once it has run out of power. These systems are meant to last longer as compared to the conventional systems. When recharging becomes a problem, a minor surgical procedure is done to replace the power source.
Spinal Cord Stimulation Insertion Process
Spinal cord stimulation is a process that works by delivering low electric signals to specific nerves or to the spinal cord in order to block the pain signals from getting to the brain. It is a minimally-invasive surgery where the stimulation device is placed near the spinal cord using a needle. A small incision is made on the left upper buttock and the pulse generator is inserted. The patient can adjust the intensity of the signals or even turn off the device.
There are many types of spinal cord stimulation devices available. Modern devices are rechargeable through the skin. There are some devices that do not require charging, but they do not last long before requiring a replacement. RF devices have a transmitter and an antenna outside the body and a receiver inside the body.
Just like other neurosurgical operations, the recovery period is painful. It is advisable to refrain from activities, even the light ones for at least two or three weeks. Complete recovery usually takes place after eight weeks. It is also recommended to avoid physical activities until three months are over.
As mentioned earlier, neurosurgery is risky and the patient should visit a back specialist regularly in order to assess the swelling on the back. It is difficult for the patient to see the place of incision clearly that is why it is good to visit the doctor on a regular basis until one is completely healed. If access to the doctor is not available, one can also request a friend or a family member to take a look at the incision.
When Should SCS be used?
This treatment is used when other treatments have failed. A neurosurgical operation is delicate and in this case, the implant is done as a last resort. However, the device is not supposed to be used on everyone. It is advisable to consult with the doctor first so that you can know the right procedure for you.