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What You Need To Know About Neurostimulation

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

One of the benefits of living in South Jersey is that you don’t have to travel far to take advantage of a wealth of outdoor activities. From swimming at the shore to skiing in the Poconos to paddling along the winding Mullica River, there’s plenty to do — as long as you feel well enough to do it.

Unfortunately, if you have chronic neck or back pain, these kinds of activities can seem pretty impossible. In fact, chronic pain can make even the simplest everyday activities excruciatingly painful. The good news is, today there are lots of safe, effective treatments for chronic pain that can help you feel better and stay active.

At Woodbury Spine, Dr. Evan O’Brien and our team offer an array of treatment options to relieve chronic back and neck pain, including a state-of-the-art treatment called neurostimulation. Here’s how it works.

Neurostimulation in a nutshell

Like the name implies, neurostimulation is a therapy that involves stimulating certain nerves — specifically, the nerves that cause pain sensations in your back or neck. But rather than stimulating these nerves to cause more pain, neurostimulation uses tiny electrical signals to block those painful nerve signals, preventing them from reaching your brain.

Neurostimulation uses a special device that generates tiny impulses of electrical current. The impulses travel along long, thin wires (called leads) to the space surrounding your spine. Both the device and the leads are implanted under your skin.

You control the impulses using a handheld remote control unit. The unit allows you to choose the amount of neurostimulation you need to relieve your symptoms at any given time, allowing you to tailor your pain control based on your activities and lifestyle.

Ideal candidates

Neurostimulation typically is recommended when conservative treatment options — like pain medicine, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy — don’t provide enough pain relief.

Candidates may include patients with chronic back or neck pain due to:

  • Sciatica

  • Failed back surgery

  • Nerve inflammation

  • Spinal cord injury

  • Complex regional pain syndrome

  • Chronic radiating pain (radiculopathy)

  • Degenerative conditions, like arthritis

Before deciding on neurostimulation, you have a comprehensive evaluation of your spine, including a physical exam, diagnostic imaging, and sometimes nerve conduction studies.

The trial run

Before the neurostimulation device is implanted, you’ll have a “trial run” of the device to make sure it’s effective in relieving your symptoms. Dr. O’Brien makes a very small incision over your spine, then inserts the leads that emit tiny electrical impulses, placing them temporarily so you can test out the device prior to having it permanently implanted.

During your trial, you’ll keep a careful record of your pain levels, so you and Dr. O’Brien can decide if the device is a good choice for relieving your symptoms. If the answer is “yes,” the next step is implantation.

To implant the device, we use X-ray imaging to identify the best place for the leads. Dr. O’Brien makes the incision and implants the ends of the leads in the epidural space surrounding your spinal column. The other ends of the leads are attached to the impulse generator, a small, noiseless device that’s typically implanted near your buttocks.

Custom care for chronic pain

Pain affects each of us in slightly different ways, which is why it’s so important to see an orthopaedic spine specialist with extensive experience in multiple types of treatments. At Woodbury Spine, our team customizes each treatment plan for optimal results in every patient.

To learn how we can help you feel better, call us or book an appointment online at our practice in Woodbury, New Jersey.

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