If there’s one thing we’re protective of, it’s our spine. But when pain becomes a chronic, debilitating condition, people will go to great lengths to beat back pain.
“Spinal stimulation is a modality that’s been around about 20 years. To help people with failed back syndromes, patients with failed back surgeries particularly, patients with neuralgias, spinal stenosis, neuropathies of the lower extremities mostly,” says Dr. Gene Mahaney, pain management specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Spinal stimulation involves a surgically implanted device which emits an electrical pulse that disrupts pain signals to the brain.
“What we’re doing is stimulating the dorsal column of the spinal cord, which is where the nerves extend and travel into the body and the legs predominantly. At the cervical spinal it will extend into the arms. These nerves are in a location where we can very efficiently block pain signals and prevent patients from experiencing daily chronic pain,” says Dr. Mahaney.
The goal is to relieve pain and reduce dependency on powerful painkillers. These neuro-stimulators, sometimes called a pacemaker for pain, are gaining in popularity as a permanent solution.
“The generator is roughly the same size as the pacemaker you may see on someone’s chest. The leads are extended typically into the spine into about the mid-back level and do a great job of controlling pain,” says Dr. Mahaney.
The latest addition to the spine stim lineup is an MRI-friendly version, allowing patients not only the freedom to move but also the flexibility to undergo future medical procedures.
“We can actually put these in and actually allow people to obtain an MRI down the road without any risk of their well-being,” says Dr. Mahaney.