How Effective Is Spinal Cord Stimulation for Chronic Pain?

March 10, 2022

Some people are skeptical when they learn about about a back pain management therapy that uses electrical stimulation delivered by an implanted wire to alleviate chronic pain. Spinal cord stimulation isn’t some theoretical, sci-fi pain management treatment. There has been significant academic interest in spinal cord stimulation (SCS), and multiple studies have been performed to determine how effective spinal cord stimulation is for managing chronic pain.

Neuromodulation study found patients on average reported a:

  •         54.2 percent reduction in pain three months after implantation
  •         60.2 percent reduction in pain six months after implantation
  •         66.8 percent reduction in pain 12 months after implantation

Pain Practice journal article determined patients experienced a long-term pain reduction success rate between 47 percent and 74 percent.

Whether you can experience long-term pain relief with spinal cord stimulation depends on the source and severity of your pain. People with a variety of chronic pain conditions or conditions related to chronic pain may be good candidates for SCS, especially if alternative treatments, like pain management injections or back surgery, haven’t provided long-lasting results.

Some of those conditions include sciatica, peripheral neuropathy or vascular disease or refractory angina. SCS might also be recommended to people who have undergone several low back surgeries but are still experiencing persistent pain.

What’s Involved With a SCS Trial?

Spinal cord stimulation devices need to be implanted under the skin so they can deliver electrical impulses to disrupt the pain signals spinal nerves are sending to the brain. The electrical leads need to be implanted through an epidural needle into the space around the spinal cord.

Patients initially have the end of this insulated wire attached to a trial stimulator. The patient uses this trial stimulator for about a week to decide if the pain management benefits justify a more permanent implantation of an SCS device.

This trial lead implant is not permanent. The wire will be removed, and the trial stimulator disconnected after the trial period, whether you decide spinal cord stimulation works for you or not.

If you do decide spinal cord stimulation is the right course of action for you, a permanent lead wire will be implanted using the same process and a stimulator will be implanted beneath your skin.

Do Patients Control Their Own Electrical Pulses?

Yes. You’ll be given a wireless programmer that allows you to turn the electrical pulses on or off and adjust the stimulation intensity levels based on your unique pain needs.

Is a Spinal Cord Stimulation Implant a Good Choice for Managing My Back Pain?

If you’ve tried to find pain management relief through alternative means such as back surgery, medications or various pain management injections, and you’re still struggling with chronic pain, spinal cord stimulation may be a good choice for you.

Every patient is different, and some respond better to certain therapies than others. One of the benefits of spinal cord implantation is it’s not a permanent solution unless you want it to be.

Dealing with chronic back pain, leg pain or arm pain is a burden that can impact every facet of your life. Chronic pain can make it hard for you to work, prevent you from enjoying time with your family and stop you from participating fully in life.

Patients frequently exhaust their options or become jaded after undergoing procedure after procedure without finding the relief they’re seeking.

Having the option to undergo a trial before permanent implantation can help manage both your expectations and commitment. Spinal cord stimulation is far less invasive than spine surgery and it doesn’t involve the use of any drugs or pharmaceuticals, which is a significant benefit for some patients.


You can learn more about spinal cord stimulation and find out whether you might be a candidate by calling the team at Non-Surgical Orthopaedics at 770-421-1420. Our board-certified pain management team in Marietta and Carrollton are ready to help you find a long-term solution for your chronic pain struggles.