Chronic pain is a debilitating problem that can result in many adverse physical and psychological effects. Left untreated, chronic pain can result in reduced physical abilities, lost income, deterioration of one’s social life, fatigue, lost appetite, anxiety, depression and substantial medical expenses. The main goal of treatment is to reduce pain and restore mobility so the patient can return to their daily activities without discomfort.

Depending on your chronic pain diagnosis, you may be a candidate for neurostimulation. Neurostimulation reduces pain by using tiny electrical impulses to disrupt pain signals traveling between the spinal cord and the brain. These electrical pulses are generated by a device implanted near your spinal cord or an affected peripheral nerve. Neurostimulation is one of several pain management therapies available at the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio.

What is a Neurostimulator?

Neurostimulators are pacemaker-sized devices that include an integrated circuit, a radio-wave transceiver, a battery and a connector block, as well as an external programming device used to adjust the stimulation’s strength and area of coverage. The system is placed during a surgical procedure in which an incision is made over the spine, and a pocket is formed under the skin to hold the neurostimulator. Once it is placed and assembled, the incisions are closed. You may feel a small bulge under your skin, but the neurostimulator is not ordinarily visible under clothing and does not make any noise. The hand-held patient programmer allows you to turn the system off and on, and increase or decrease pain relief within limits set by your physician. Your doctor will help you choose the neurostimulation system and the settings that are most appropriate for your needs.

Who is a Candidate for Neurostimulation?

Only some kinds of chronic pain can be managed with neurostimulation. Neurostimulation therapy may be appropriate for you if your chronic pain is one of the types that can be treated, more conservative methods have failed to provide adequate relief, and further traditional surgical intervention is not recommended. You must also have no medical issues that would interfere with the successful completion of the surgery and no untreated drug habituation from your pain condition. All candidates must pass a psychological evaluation as well as a neurostimulation trial to be approved. The trial screening gives you an opportunity to experience the system and allows your doctor to determine whether it will be an effective treatment in your case.

What are the Benefits of Neurostimulation?

Neurostimulation can offer several advantages over other treatments for chronic pain. Because a trial is required, you have a chance to experience neurostimulation and determine whether it’s right for you before committing to implantation of the device. The surgery is an outpatient procedure with little recovery time. Benefits of neurostimulation include precise targeting of the area in which you feel pain, reduced or eliminated need for pain management medications, patient-controlled programming that allows for customized pain relief and a renewed ability to sit, stand or walk without discomfort. Implantation is not permanent. If at any point you decide you do not like neurostimulation or you wish to try a different treatment, the device can be removed. If neurostimulation proves to be a useful tool for managing your chronic pain, it can be a permanent solution.