A spinal cord stimulator is a device used to exert pulsed electrical signals to the spinal cord to control chronic pain. In general, neurostimulation works by applying an electrical current to the source of chronic pain. This creates a pleasant sensation that blocks the brain's ability to sense the previously perceived pain.
In spinal cord stimulation, soft, thin wires with electrical leads on their tips are placed through a needle in the back near to the spinal column. The leads are placed through a needle inserted in the back, and a small incision is then made and a tiny, programmable generator is placed in the upper buttock or abdomen (under the skin) which emits electrical currents to the spinal column. The generator can be programmed in a way similar to using a remote control to adjust the television. The area or intensity of electrical stimulation can be changed, and the system can be turned on and off or adjusted as necessary to provide optimal pain relief.
While spinal cord stimulation and peripheral nerve field stimulation can be used to treat chronic pain from multiple sources, it does not eliminate the source of chronic pain or treat the underlying cause of the pain. Instead, they interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain, so the brain does not recognize (or has only limited recognition) of the pain.
There are many advantages to spinal cord or peripheral nerve field stimulation for the treatment of chronic back pain. A trial can test patient response before the patient commits to a permanent implant, and even if there are complications it has few side effects and is easily reversible. Implantation of the system is minimally invasive, requiring a relatively minor surgical procedure on an outpatient basis. Leads are inserted just under the skin, and you will be able to travel anywhere, and participate in any recreational activities, including swimming.