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What Is a Back Stimulator?


What is a back stimulator?

A back stimulator is a term for a device that helps relieve chronic back pain and other issues by sending gentle electrical pulses directly to the spinal cord. This form of therapy can help back pain sufferers who have not found sufficient relief from conservative treatments such as medication or injections. It is also a common option for people who have undergone back surgery and either are not candidates for another procedure or would like to avoid one.

To help you learn more about what a back stimulator is and whether it could potentially help you, our team has created the following informative guide. Our representatives are here to answer any questions you have, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Is a back stimulator the same as a spinal cord stimulator?

Yes, “back stimulator” is a simpler and more informal term for a spinal cord stimulator. The device typically consists of a power pack, or generator, that sends electrical pulses through two thin wires that are attached to electrodes, or leads, near the spinal cord.

There are several different types of back stimulators made by different manufacturers that can vary the size or method for delivering power. For example, some devices have a rechargeable battery, meaning they do not need to be replaced as often as traditional stimulators. Your doctor can help you explore the options that are right for you.

How does a back stimulator relieve chronic back pain? 

Although the mechanisms are still being researched, evidence supports the idea that back stimulators relieve chronic back pain by disrupting the pain signals that are sent to the brain. Instead of pain, patients with back stimulators experience a barely perceptible tingling sensation.

Spinal cord stimulation can be especially effective in improving quality of life when combined with physical therapy and lifestyle changes that support back health. This includes getting regular exercise, improving posture and eating a healthy diet.

What other conditions can a back stimulator help with? 

Spinal cord stimulators can help people who are dealing with a surprisingly wide range of conditions. In addition to spine conditions that cause chronic back pain like bulging and herniated discs, doctors may recommend a back stimulator to help with the following conditions:

  • Arachnoiditis, a condition that causes inflammation of a membrane around the spinal cord
  • Angina, or heart-related pain
  • Diabetic neuropathy and other forms of nerve pain
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Post-amputation pain
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Abdominal pains

Patients considering a back stimulator have typically attempted conservative, nonsurgical treatments for their condition for a period of weeks or months without finding the relief necessary to engage in regular daily activities.

Do I need surgery for a back stimulator?

A Spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device that requires a minimally invasive procedure to place the generator, tunnel the wires and attach the electrodes to the epidural space near the spinal cord. This procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis at an ambulatory surgery center and only requires a relatively brief recovery period.

Before the device is permanently implanted, patients will first have a trial period that usually lasts about a week. During the trial, a surgeon will use a very thin needle to attach the electrodes near the spinal cord while a temporary external generator will be used to create the pulse. This allows patients and doctors to determine if spinal cord stimulation will effectively relieve pain signals before the device is permanently implanted.

If the trial is successful, patients can then schedule surgery for permanent placement of the implanted device.

What do I need to know about maintaining the implanted device?

Since many back stimulator devices are different, patients will receive care and operating instructions after their procedure. Patients are instructed to avoid operating their device while driving or using any heavy machinery. It is also recommended to train a family member or other close relation on how to turn off the device if the patient is unable to reach it themself for any reason.

How much does a back stimulator cost?

Costs for back stimulator devices and procedures vary depending on a number of factors. This includes the type of device, the extent of the procedure, the facility, the surgeon and the insurance provider. For patients on Medicare, spinal cord stimulator procedures are covered if it is determined to be a necessary part of treatment. At USA Spine Care, we accept Medicare and most private insurance providers while also working with personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. We can help you learn more about spinal cord stimulator cost when you speak with a member of our team.

Learn more about spinal cord stimulator surgery at USA Spine Care

At USA Spine Care, we’re passionate about helping people dealing with chronic back pain and other painful conditions find the relief they deserve. At our state-of-the-art outpatient facilities, we offer patients a streamlined experience carried out by highly skilled and experienced surgeons. We offer a full range of outpatient spine surgery, orthopedic surgery and conservative treatments to give patients an integrated, holistic care experience.

To learn more and find out if you are a potential candidate for spinal cord stimulator surgery, contact us today.

Call toll free 1-866-249-1627.

Spinal Cord Stimulator - People Also Ask

Spinal cord stimulator implants are covered by Medicare and are billed under:

  • Percutaneous Leads and Extensions
    63650 Percutaneous implantation of neurostimulator electrode array, epidural
    63661 Removal of spinal neurostimulator electrode percutaneous array(s), including fluoroscopy, when performed
    63663 Revision including replacement, when performed, of spinal neurostimulator electrode percutaneous array(s), including fluoroscopy, when performed
  • Paddle Leads
    63655 Laminectomy for implantation of neurostimulator electrodes, plate/paddle, epidural
    63662 Removal of spinal neurostimulator electrode plate/paddle(s) placed via laminotomy or laminectomy, including fluoroscopy, when performed
    63664 Revision including replacement, when performed, of spinal neurostimulator electrode plate/paddle(s) placed via laminotomy or laminectomy, including fluoroscopy, when performed
  • Stimulators
    63685 Insertion or replacement of spinal neurostimulator pulse generator or receiver, direct or inductive coupling
    63688 Revision or removal of implanted spinal neurostimulator pulse generator or receiver
  • Analysis and Programming
    CPT codes 95970–95973 are used to report electronic analysis services. These are not considered medically necessary when provided at a frequency more often than once every 30 days. More frequent analysis may be necessary in the first month after implantation.

Published studies of spinal cord stimulation show good to excellent long-term relief in 50 to 80% of patients suffering from chronic pain. One study reports that 24% of patients improved sufficiently to return to gainful employment or housework with stimulation alone or with the addition of occasional oral pain medication.

Unlike a spinal fusion, a spinal cord stimulator surgery is reversible. If a patient decides at any time to discontinue, the electrode wires and generator can all be removed.

Spinal Cord Stimulation is an option for those suffering from chronic, intractable pain of lower back and/or limbs including unilateral or bilateral pain associated with the following conditions:

  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS)
  • Radicular pain
  • Post-laminectomy pain
  • Multiple back surgeries resulting in continued or worsening pain
  • Unsuccessful vertebral disk surgery
  • Degenerative Disk Disease
  • Peripheral causalgia
  • Epidural fibrosis
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
  • Causalgia

No surgery is without risks. General complications of any surgery include bleeding, infection, blood clots, and reactions to anesthesia. Specific complications related to SCS may include:

  • Undesirable changes in stimulation (can possibly be related to cellular changes in tissue around electrodes, changes in electrode position, loose electrical connections, and/or lead failure)
  • Epidural hemorrhage, hematoma, infection, spinal cord compression, and/or paralysis (can be caused by placing a lead in the epidural space during a surgical procedure)
  • Battery failure and/or battery leakage
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Persistent pain at the electrode or stimulator site
  • A pocket of clear fluid (seroma) at the implant site. Seromas usually disappear by themselves but may require a drain.
  • Lead migration, which can result in changes in stimulation and reduction in pain relief
  • Allergic response to implant materials
  • Generator migration and/or local skin erosion
  • Paralysis, weakness, clumsiness, numbness, or pain below the level of implantation

In a spinal cord stimulator trial, temporary electrodes are placed and then the patient uses an external device to generate electrical current. The electrodes are placed under x-ray guidance with the patient lying on his belly. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin and deeper tissues. The electrical wire or lead contains a series of four to eight evenly spaced electrodes that can be programmed to generate an electrical field. A spinal cord stimulator trial period is at least 5 to 7 days. This gives you time to test the device and evaluate its effectiveness managing your pain at rest and during activity

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