Understanding a Trial Run With a Spinal Cord Stimulator

Understanding a Trial Run With a Spinal Cord Stimulator

Since back pain is so common — affecting roughly 80% of people at some point during their lives — it’s no surprise that doctors and medical researchers have closely studied its causes. While some back pain stems from an obvious and treatable cause, like disc herniation, other back pain can be harder to diagnose. 

Fortunately, even when a diagnosis is elusive and other treatments have failed, all of the extensive research into chronic pain has uncovered new ways to alleviate it. With a treatment called spinal cord stimulation, Dr. Jonathan D. Carlson can directly affect the way your brain receives back pain signals. This treatment can also be effective for arm and leg pain. 

We offer spinal cord stimulation from our Hawai’i Pain and Spine office on the Windward side of Oʻahu in Kailua.

If back, leg, or arm pain relief has eluded you, a spinal cord stimulator could help. And you can find out if it will work for you by engaging in a trial run. But first, let’s take a moment to understand the technology behind it. 

How spinal cord stimulation works

Spinal cord stimulation technology gives Dr. Carlson a way to interrupt the pain signals that emanate from your spinal cord. 

To achieve this pain-interrupting stimulation, Dr. Carlson implants a small electrode under your skin near your spine. The stimulator interrupts pain signals your spine attempts to send to your brain, making it an extremely effective way to address many types of chronic back, leg, and arm pain. 

Because it addresses the signals sent between nerves, spinal cord stimulation works well for neuropathic pain and neuralgia. Dr. Carlson may also recommend it for pain that hasn’t been eased with other treatments. 

Because spinal cord stimulation requires implantation, many people want to make sure it will work for them before choosing this option. With that in mind, Dr. Carlson offers trial runs. 

What to expect with a trial run

Starting your trial run only requires a minimally invasive procedure. Dr. Carlson uses a local anesthetic to numb an area along your spine, then inserts the wires for your stimulator through a tiny incision. He talks with you during this process to ensure the stimulation is in the best place to give you maximal pain relief. 

You go home with a trial stimulator unit, which you can use to activate the stimulation whenever you’re feeling discomfort. You try this at home for a week.

If the spinal cord stimulation brings you any meaningful measure of pain relief, you return to our office for your permanent implant. During this minor procedure, Dr. Carlson implants a small, ​​permanent pulse generator (IPG) to connect to your stimulator wires. 

Downtime after this procedure is usually minimal, accompanied only by some soreness or swelling that should dissipate quickly. From that point forward, your spinal cord stimulator gives you an effective, drug-free way to address your chronic pain.

If you want to learn more about spinal cord stimulation or discuss a trial run, call our office to schedule your appointment today.

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