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What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?


A spinal cord stimulator is a device that masks pain signals before they reach the brain. A small device, similar to a pacemaker, is implanted in the body to deliver electrical pulses to the spinal cord. The SCS helps patients decrease or eliminate the use of opioid medications and better manage the chronic pain.


The SCS is surgically placed under your skin and delivers a mild electric current to your spinal cord. A small wire sends the current from a pulse generator to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. The SCS stimulates the nerves in the area where your pain is felt.

The stimulation from the SCS does not eliminate the source of pain. It just changes the way the brain perceives the pain. The amount of pain relief will differ for each person. The expectation for SCS is a 50% to 70% reduction in pain. The goal being that even a small amount of pain reduction can be significant if it enables the patient to reduce the amount of pain medication and increase overall daily functioning. 

The SCS does not work for everyone. For some the sensation is uncomfortable. In some situations, the SCS may not cover the entire pain area, consequently a stimulation is "trialed" before the device is permanently implanted. If ineffective, the trial wires can be removed with no damage to the nerves or spinal cord. 

Who is a Candidate? 

Since chronic pain has an emotional effect, mental health professionals may assess your condition to maximize the probability of a successful outcome. A Mental Health Evaluation is a requirement for all candidates and will determine whether your goals of pain management are appropriate for the SCS. 

  • If complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and therapies have been unsuccessful

  • If surgery is ruled out as a benefit

  • If the pain is caused by a normally correctable problem but cannot be mitigated

  • If a complex surgery is too risky and a SCS is a better solution

  • If you have no medical conditions that would interfere with the success of the implantation

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