Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation is used most often after nonsurgical pain treatment options have failed to provide sufficient relief. Spinal cord stimulators require two procedures to test and implant the device: the trial and the implantation.

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What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

SCS therapy works by interrupting pain signals before they reach your brain. This can help with pain relief—even when other therapies have failed. The goal of spinal cord stimulation is to deliver personalized relief to help you get back to living your life.

Your nerves and brain are constantly communicating with each other. When you feel pain, it’s because the nerves are sending a pain signal to your brain. The pain can be acute, and go away within a couple of months, as often happens after an injury. Or the pain can be chronic, which means that it lasts six months or longer. SCS therapy is designed to help treat chronic, ongoing pain.

Spinal cord stimulation can improve overall quality of life and sleep, and reduce the need for pain medicines. It is typically used along with other pain management treatments, including medications, exercise, physical therapy and relaxation methods.

SCS may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple. SCS systems have a small implanted pulse generator, called a stimulator, and thin wires called leads. These are implanted into your body. The stimulator delivers tiny pulses of mild electric current through the leads to specific nerves on the spinal cord. These impulses mask pain signals traveling to the brain.

A remote control allows you to turn stimulation on and off, increase and decrease the level of stimulation, and target different pain areas in your body using settings or programs designed specifically for you. This stimulation does not get rid of what’s causing the pain. It changes the way the brain perceives it. SCS therapy may use a gentle tingling or fluttering sensation to replace the pain. Other forms of SCS therapy don’t cause any sensation at all. The amount of pain relief you feel is different for everyone, but the therapy is considered successful if it reduces your pain by at least 50%.

Components of a Spinal Cord Stimulator


A small device, typically implanted in the abdomen or buttock area, that is connected to the leads.


Thin insulated wires that carry the electrical pulses from the generator to your spinal cord.

Patient Controller

A handheld “remote control” that allows you to adjust stimulation, also known as target dose.


What to Expect from Your SCS Trial

See if Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy is Right for Your Pain
What is an SCS Trial?

Designed to closely mimic an implanted system, a temporary evaluation system consists of three parts that work together to manage your pain:

The external generator is a small device that produces mild electrical pulses to manage your chronic pain. It can be taped or secured to your lower back and is easily hidden.

The leads are thin wires that deliver the electrical pulses from the generator to the nerves along the spinal cord responsible for your chronic pain.

The patient controller is an external, handheld device that allows you to adjust the therapy or turn it off entirely.

Before we get you started with your temporary system, though, there’s an important step you need to complete to ensure you’re ready for the procedure–and to make sure you get insurance coverage. Give us a call and we would be happy to get you started.

Preparing for Your Trial

Most insurance carriers require a psychological evaluation to address issues that may affect your pain management options. Therefore, before you start your trial, your doctor will typically refer you to a psychologist. This is very common for people considering neurostimulation. The evaluation will usually last about an hour and will help determine that you’re mentally ready for the procedure.

We will be happy to make the referral to an appropriate physician if you desire.

The Trial Evaluation Period

SCS Trial Evaluation Period

The procedure to place your temporary system is short and minimally invasive. You’ll be awake and answering questions from your medical team. During the procedure:

  • Your doctor will place temporary leads in the area of your spine that coordinates with the part of your body responsible for your pain and then tests them to ensure they’re placed correctly.
  • Your doctor connects the leads to a small external generator that you’ll wear outside your body (typically on your lower back) but discretely under your clothing.
  • In the recovery room, your SCS representative will program your external generator under your doctor’s guidance.

Most patients report little to no discomfort during the procedure. Afterward, you will get a chance to test the therapy as part of your daily life. During this evaluation period, your doctor will tell you if you have any restrictions. Most patients are able to continue to perform most of their usual activities with some exceptions.

Things To Do During Your DRG Trial


Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule.


Enjoy light activities such as walking around and shopping.


Track which stimulation settings you use and how well your pain is relieved.

Things To AVOID During Your DRG Trial


Bending, stretching, twisting, or raising your arms above your head.


Swimming or soaking in water. This also includes full showers.


Lifting anything over five pounds.

Is Spinal Cord Stimulation
Therapy Right For You?

If you have chronic neuropathic pain that has not been addressed by medication or minimally invasive interventions, spinal cord stimulation may be an option for you
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