What to Expect During Your Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial

Dec 12, 2023
What to Expect During Your Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial
Chronic back pain can be overwhelming. When pain medications and physical therapy haven’t helped, you might consider a spinal cord stimulator. If you’re scheduled for a trial of this pain-relieving device, here’s what to expect.

If more conservative treatments like pain medications and physical therapy haven’t helped alleviate your pain, the team at Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine may suggest you try spinal cord stimulation to get relief. 

Before we permanently implant a stimulator device that disrupts pain signals your body sends to your brain, we schedule you for a trial to determine if it works to ease your pain. Here’s what to expect during your spinal cord stimulator trial.

About spinal cord stimulators

A spinal cord stimulator is a device implanted under your skin. It delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord, effectively blocking pain signals and replacing them with a tingling sensation. 

The device can greatly help people suffering from chronic pain conditions, such as failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, and neuropathic pain. More than 30,000 people go through the process of getting a spinal cord stimulator implanted every year to address their pain.

The trial process

Before committing to a permanent implant, which requires a surgical procedure, you undergo a trial period to evaluate the effectiveness of the device. This trial serves as a crucial step in determining if a spinal cord stimulator is the right choice for you. 

The trial involves the temporary placement of a lead (thin wire) with electrodes near your spinal cord. This lead connects to an external stimulator device that you can control.

Your spinal cord stimulator trial begins with a consultation at our office. During this visit, our experienced neurological team discusses your specific pain concerns and evaluates whether you’re a suitable candidate for a spinal cord stimulator.

If you decide to proceed with the trial, your Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine specialist goes over the entire process in detail with you. You have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

Together, we set a date for the trial lead implantation, which we typically perform on an outpatient basis. You’re awake throughout to provide real-time feedback to your specialist to ensure optimal placement.

Our team works closely with you so you understand how to adjust the settings on the external device to optimize pain relief. You may have to come in for several visits during the trial period to get it just right.

The trial typically lasts for a week, during which you carry out your daily activities as usual. We ask you to keep a pain diary during this period to monitor the pain relief provided by the spinal cord stimulator, record your experiences, and note any changes in pain levels.

At the end of the trial, we discuss your experiences to understand whether the spinal cord stimulator provides adequate pain relief. If the trial is successful, you may choose to proceed with a permanent implant.

If you decide not to go forward with the permanent implant or if the trial is unsuccessful in reducing your pain, we remove the temporary lead and external device during a simple outpatient procedure.

The trial’s significance

The spinal cord stimulator trial is an essential step in the process of pain management for many with chronic pain conditions. The trial offers a real-world experience of how this technology can ease pain and improve your quality of life. We want you to maintain open communication with our team throughout the trial, so you receive the best possible care and support.

Remember that every patient's experience with a spinal cord stimulator is unique. The trial period allows you to determine if it’s the right solution for your pain management needs. If you decide to proceed with a permanent implant, it can be a huge step toward a life with reduced pain and increased mobility.

Call today or use our online request tool to book an appointment at Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine to find out more about how a spinal cord stimulator may help you.