A Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial: What to Expect

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Chronic pain is challenging to treat, and conventional treatment doesn’t always help. Spinal cord stimulation is a compelling advancement in pain medicine that uses electrical signals to block pain, providing much-needed relief.

Living with chronic pain isn’t just a physical challenge; it can take an emotional and mental toll. If you’ve tried conventional pain management treatment without adequate relief, it’s wise to consider a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) trial.

Here at the Interventional Pain Management Associates in Hamilton, New Jersey, 

Dr. Maher Ibrahim specializes in providing individualized pain management. When chronic pain doesn’t respond to traditional treatment, Dr. Ibrahim can perform an evaluation to determine if you’re a candidate for a spinal cord stimulator trial.

A crucial first step

A spinal cord stimulator trial is a test run to see if spinal cord stimulation will be effective for managing your chronic pain. Spinal cord stimulation uses a device to send low-level electrical signals to the spinal cord or specific nerves to block pain signals from reaching the brain. It can provide life-changing relief for some patients.

The trial period is crucial, as it helps determine whether a permanent SCS system would be beneficial for you. This reversible procedure is an opportunity to evaluate how well the spinal cord stimulator controls your pain. It’s considered a successful trial if it reduces your pain by at least 50%.

Preparing for the trial

Before the trial, you have a detailed discussion with Dr. Ibrahim. This is your time to ask questions, express concerns, and get a clear understanding about the procedure. You learn about how the device is placed and how it operates, as well as what to expect in terms of pain relief. Our team reviews your medical history and ensures you're a suitable candidate for the trial.

What happens during the trial

Knowing what to expect during the trial can ease any anxiety and help you feel prepared. The SCS trial is typically an outpatient procedure. It involves placing one or more thin wires called leads in the space around your spinal cord. 

These leads are connected to an external trial stimulator, which you wear on a belt. Dr. Ibrahim uses visual guidance (X-ray or ultrasound) to find the precise target. The procedure takes about an hour, and is performed using local anesthesia.

Daily life with a spinal cord stimulator

The trial lasts about a week, during which time you go about your daily activities with the external stimulator. This period is crucial for assessing how well the SCS system controls your pain as you perform various daily activities and during rest. 

You keep a pain diary, noting your pain levels and any changes in your ability to perform daily tasks. This diary is an invaluable tool for evaluating the effectiveness of the trial.

Evaluating the results

After the trial period, you have a follow-up appointment with Dr. Ibrahim to discuss your experience. The decision to proceed with a permanent SCS system is based on how well it improves your pain and overall function. If the trial is successful, you can opt for a permanent implantation. If not, the trial leads can be easily removed in a simple, outpatient procedure.

Making the decision

A SCS trial is an opportunity to test out an innovative pain management solution without an immediate long-term commitment. Deciding whether to proceed with a permanent SCS system involves weighing the benefits you experienced during the trial against any discomfort or drawbacks.

This trial can be a crucial step in your journey toward reclaiming control over your pain and your life. With the right preparation and close collaboration with our Interventional Pain Management Associates team, the SCS trial could be the key to restoring a pain-free life.

To learn more about spinal cord stimulation and its potential to manage your chronic pain, call our office to schedule a visit with Dr. Ibrahim.