06 May High Frequency Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
With a recent Boston PainCare study out that illustrates the effects of high frequency (10 kHz) nerve stimulation related to lower back pain, we are (again) made aware of the growing uses for this option for long-term pain management.
The results of the study were strongly positive. Over 70 percent of the chronic back pain patients who took part in the study had reduced their reliance on pain medications a year after receiving SCS implants.
The study found that “Reductions in opioid dose were significantly greater for the SCS group than the CMM group (the control group). Among those with SCS, there were significant within-group reductions in numerical pain scores for low back and lower extremity pain.”
The numerical pain score for low back pain dropped 46.2 percent in the SCS group, while the lower extremity (leg) pain dropped 50.9 percent from baseline, the study found.
How does SCS work?
High-frequency spinal cord stimulation is a form of neuromodulation that involves manipulating nerve endings with a high-frequency pulse. This can create a faint tingling sensation, but often you feel nothing except reduced pain. This occurs because the SCS is disrupting the pain signal going from the afflicted area to your brain.
Technically, SCS does not stop the pain, but it disrupts how your brain perceives the pain signals going to it. This diminishes the pain you feel.
SCS treatment begins with a medical procedure.
The procedure involves placing microelectrodes near the spinal cord or near the area where the pain begins. This is done by use of a hollow needle (that is how small the electrodes are) with the doctor pinpointing the placement by use of X-ray fluoroscopy.
The electrodes are then attached to a pulse generator worn on your belt.
The next step is to go home and write in a journal how the device is working if you feel the pain diminished and by how much.
The SCS Implant
If the trial is successful, you and your doctor will talk it over and decided if you are right for an SCS implant. This works the same way as the trial implant, except wireless electrodes are surgically placed and a pulse generator is implanted under your skin, usually below your waist. The lead from the electrodes is then attached to the pulse generator.
The patient is then given a handheld device that can activate the system, sending the pulses to the nervous system.
Can SCS help you?
Neuromodulation or nerve stimulation was developed in the 1960s and has come a long way as researchers are finding more and more uses for this medical technology. It has been FDA approved for use to combat chronic pain.
It has been used to treat many conditions that cause patients ongoing pain and it is seen by some as a game changer in the field of long term pain management. It has also been hailed as a potential lifesaver, given the technique has been demonstrated to reduce the use of opioid medications, which pose a serious addiction risk.
Potential Neuromodulation Candidates
The International Neuromodulation Society notes that neuromodulation can be used to reduce pain with the following conditions:
— Regional Pain Syndrome
— Chronic Pain
— Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
— Trigeminal Neuralgia
— Ischemic Pain
— Peripheral Neuralgia
It is also useful for:
— Spinal Cord Stimulation
— Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation
— Subcutaneous Peripheral Field Stimulation
— Deep Brain Stimulation
— Motor Cortex Stimulation
— Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation