People whose back or neck pain has not been relieved by back surgery or other treatments may have another option to consider: spinal cord stimulation.
Around the world, some 14,000 patients undergo spinal cord stimulator implants each year. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) delivers mild electrical stimulation to nerves along the spinal column, modifying or blocking nerve activity in a non-medicinal way to minimize the sensation of pain reaching the brain.
Spinal cord stimulation was first used to treat pain in 1967. Spinal cord stimulation was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1989 to relieve pain from nerve damage in the trunk, arms, or legs, and now accounts for about 90 percent of all neuromodulation treatments. That number is expected to grow to manage chronic disease states as the population ages and as spinal cord stimulation is expanded to treat other diseases.
Spinal cord stimulation, also called neurostimulation, directs mild electrical pulses to interfere with pain messages reaching the brain. A small device implanted near the spine generates these pulses. The implanted generator used in spinal cord stimulation has similarities to a cardiac pacemaker, leading some to call the device a pacemaker for pain.