This page answers some frequently asked questions about neurostimulation. Answering what neurostimulation is, how it works, who is a candidate for neurostimulation, if insurance will cover it, etc. The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers pertain to Spinal Cord Stimulators only. The following material is given as general information only and is not considered as medical advice or consultation.
What is neurostimulation and how does it work?
Neurostimulation is an option for managing chronic pain. It works by blocking pain signals before they reach the brain. To do this, a small system is implanted in the body. When turned on, this system sends mild pulses to nerves along the spinal cord, replacing the feeling of pain with a different feeling.
What does neurostimulation feel like?
While neurostimulation can feel different to different people, some describe the sensation as a pleasant massaging sensation. Some have even reported that they simply feel the absence of pain.
Who is a candidate for neurostimulation?
Only a doctor or pain management specialist can determine if you are a candidate for neurostimulation. Good candidates typically have chronic pain in the back, neck, arms, or legs that has lasted at least six months. Their pain is neuropathic (typically marked by burning, tingling, or numbness), and it has not been relieved well enough by surgery, pain medications, nerve blocks, TENS, or physical therapy.
Is neurostimulation similar to TENS?
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Although neurostimulation and TENS systems both deliver electrical pulses, they are very different in how they work and what type of pain they are designed to treat. A TENS unit is an external device that delivers pulses through pads that are placed directly on the skin over the painful site. TENS is generally not effective for severe chronic pain. More importantly, failure with TENS therapy is not a predictor of how you will respond to neurostimulation.
Is neurostimulation covered by insurance?
Neurostimulation is covered by many major health insurance plans, Medicare, and workers’ compensation programs.
Will neurostimulation allow me to reduce my pain medications?
Every patient responds differently. Many patients are able to decrease the amount of pain medications they take. Other patients are able to change the type of medication they take.
Will neurostimulation cure my pain?
Neurostimulation is not a cure for pain. It is a therapy that may help you reduce your pain to a manageable level so you may return to a more normal lifestyle.
Does neurostimulation treat specific diseases?
Although neurostimulation does not treat specific diseases, it has been used to manage pain that comes from failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) or post-laminectomy syndrome and other neuropathies. Talk to your doctor about whether neurostimulation may be appropriate for your pain.
What steps are involved in getting a system?
If your doctor decides you are a candidate for neurostimulation, you will likely begin the process for getting a system. This process is typically done in two steps. The first step is to have a temporary evaluation of neurostimulation. During the evaluation period, you will use a temporary system to see whether neurostimulation works for you. If the evaluation is successful, you will proceed to the second step, which is to have the system implanted and programmed to allow you to manage your pain effectively. To learn more about the steps involved in getting a system, refer to the Getting a System page.
Can one neurostimulation system help me with pain in multiple areas?
Yes. In order to help with all the pain areas, your doctor would need to place the leads in the proper location. Afterward, your doctor could program your neurostimulation system to cover the different areas of pain. To help you get the best possible results, make sure your doctor knows where your pain areas are located.
What restrictions may I have with a neurostimulation system?
Many patients who enjoy the benefits of neurostimulation report that they can do many things that they couldn’t do before they received their system. However, a neurostimulation system does have restrictions. For example, patients who have a system cannot have an MRI or receive diathermy therapy.