Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has been a medical treatment available for certain types of chronic pain for over 50 years. In general, this minimally invasive therapy involves putting a small lead in the spinal canal and using electrical energy from a battery to stimulate the sensory nerves of the spinal cord. This has been shown to decrease chronic pain from a variety of conditions.
There has been a rapid expansion of technologies and therapies in this area over the past few years. Physicians are now able to treat certain pains more effectively than ever before. These new technologies are related to both better equipment technology, stimulation targets, and also how the electrical energy is delivered to the spine and nerves. In addition to treating chronic nerve pain, there have been improvements in the ability to treat chronic back pain, post-knee surgery pain, post-hernia repair pain, and foot pain. Traditionally, patients who have a spinal cord stimulator would feel a pleasant, buzzing sensation (called a paresthesia) in the area of their pain. Now, certain technologies allow for stimulation without creating this sensation, which some patients prefer. Other new technology allows for more specific stimulation of a particular area of the body, which has been shown to be valuable for certain pain problems. Many systems now are compatible with MRI machines which had been a hurdle for some patients in the past.
Generally, a pain medicine physician would be a good source of information to determine if a certain technology would be beneficial for an individual patient. All of this means that there are more options than ever before to treat a wide variety of patients!