Top Questions About Spinal Cord Stimulation Answered
There’s an effective approach to managing severe chronic pain, especially for people who haven’t found pain relief with other treatments: spinal cord stimulation. Like any new treatment option, it’s normal to have questions and concerns.
This article will address some common questions people have about spinal cord stimulation. Our goal is to provide answers, reduce confusion, and let you know what to expect from this treatment option.
Whether you’re thinking of spinal cord stimulation for yourself or for someone you know who’s looking for relief from chronic pain, read on to learn more.
1. Is spinal cord stimulation safe?
Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved spinal cord stimulation in 1984. Spinal cord stimulation has been thoroughly studied and proven to be a safe and effective approach to managing chronic pain for many decades.
Spinal cord stimulation safely delivers stimulation to relieve chronic pain. It doesn’t interfere with your normal sensory perception, cognitive abilities, or motor functions. It also doesn’t interact with medications and has significantly fewer side effects than other treatment options.
Getting a spinal cord stimulator isn’t major surgery, and it’s typically safer than other spine surgeries used to address chronic pain1-2,3-5.
2. Can I get an MRI with a spinal cord stimulator?
It depends on which spinal cord stimulator you choose. You can safely have an MRI with some spinal cord stimulators, but others aren’t MRI safe.
With advanced spinal cord stimulators like, HFX™ spinal cord stimulation, you can safely have a full body MRI*, allowing you to receive the care you need.
When choosing a spinal cord stimulator, ask your pain management provider for an MRI-safe option like HFX.
For more detailed information about spinal cord stimulators and MRI compatibility, read this article Can I Get an MRI with a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
3. Is spinal cord stimulation covered by insurance?
Yes. Since spinal cord stimulation is a well-established, FDA-approved treatment option, it’s covered by most insurers, including all major commercial insurance plans, Medicare, Medicaid, Aetna, Humana, United, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tricare, and workers comp in all states except Washington.
For more information, you can read How Much Does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Cost?
4. Can you feel it?
The answer to this question depends on which spinal cord stimulator you choose. Traditional spinal cord stimulators use paresthesia, or a tingling sensation like a TENS unit, to mask pain signals, and for some people, this can be an uncomfortable feeling.
However, there’s a newer spinal cord stimulator option available that doesn’t use a tingling sensation to provide pain relief – HFX. HFX is the only spinal cord stimulator that offers programs without this tingling sensation, allowing you to just feel pain relief.
5. What is the recovery time and is there any restrictions?
There are two steps to getting a spinal cord stimulator: a trial and an implant.
The trial is an opportunity for you to see if spinal cord stimulation relieves your pain with a temporary system. It’s quick, simple, and very similar to an epidural injection.
Because the trial is a time for you to evaluate your pain relief, generally, you’ll be encouraged to maintain your daily routine and even try activities your pain has prevented you from doing like walking, sitting, standing, shopping, etc.
Most people can continue to go about their daily routine with only a few minor restrictions; however, there are a few precautions you may need to take. Generally, you should avoid:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Activities that require twisting, bending, or raising your arms above your shoulders
- Getting your trial battery wet (e.g., do not swim or shower)
The implant procedure is quick, minimally invasive, and usually an outpatient procedure. Recovery takes about 4 to 6 weeks, and during this time most physicians will recommend limiting bending, lifting, and twisting.
After the normal recovery time window, depending on which spinal cord stimulator you choose, there are very few restrictions. Unlike traditional spinal cord stimulators, HFX spinal cord stimulation can be used while driving and sleeping. Once cleared by your doctor, you can do things like swim, fly, and return to the activities you love. You can also always turn it off if need be.
The goal with HFX is for you to be more free, independent, and get back to everyday life and what you love, like these patients who have gotten back to work, traveling, golf, and playing with their grandchildren, thanks to HFX.
6. I’ve tried everything else for my pain; why should I try spinal cord stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation has proven to be successful for many people with chronic pain who haven’t found lasting relief from other treatment options. Spinal cord stimulation has several unique benefits over other treatment options:
- It’s drug-free and not addictive
- It has fewer side effects than pain medication
- It doesn’t cloud your thoughts, cause drowsiness or constipation
- It’s outpatient, minimally invasive, and doesn’t require a major surgery
- You can try it first to make sure you experience relief
See what physicians are saying about HFX spinal cord stimulation and their patient outcomes:
7. I know people who have tried spinal cord stimulation and it didn’t work for them, so why should I try it?
It’s important to know not all spinal cord stimulators are the same. Within the last ten years, there have been significant advancements in spinal cord stimulation. HFX spinal cord stimulation, a next-generation approach, has been clinically proven to provide substantially more long-term pain relief compared to people with traditional spinal cord stimulators6.
And that’s because HFX is the most advanced spinal cord stimulator available:
- The only spinal cord stimulator to offer both low and high-frequency programs. Traditional spinal cord stimulators only offer low-frequency therapy which has been shown to provide less relief for people. HFX uniquely offers high-frequency and low-frequency options for customized relief and the best possible long-term outcome.
- The highest long-term success rate for chronic back and leg pain. HFX has been clinically proven to provide more and longer-lasting pain relief from chronic back and leg pain than other spinal cord stimulation systems6. A major clinical study found that nearly 80% of people experienced significant pain relief with HFX compared to only 49% of people with a traditional spinal cord stimulator6.
- More freedom. HFX offers programs without the lifestyle limitations of traditional spinal cord stimulation, like driving, sleeping, and MRI restrictions7.
- Designed for 10+ Year Battery Life Without Programming Restrictions8. Non-rechargeable traditional spinal cord stimulators require you to use a restrictive set of programs to preserve battery life. This limits your programming options and pain relief. HFX is designed to last over 10 years without any programming restrictions, so all you need to worry about is getting the best pain relief possible. Learn more.
77% of people who have tried a traditional spinal cord stimulator rate HFX as a better treatment option7,9. Read first-hand stories from people who tried traditional spinal cord stimulation and then found relief with HFX.
8. Does spinal cord stimulation just mask the pain? Is it just a band-aid?
HFX is different and doesn’t simply just mask your pain like traditional spinal cord stimulation.
Chronic pain is felt when damaged nerves overproduce pain signals sent to the brain. While traditional spinal cord stimulation uses low frequency to mask pain, evidence shows that delivering high frequency quiets chronic pain signals. When this happens, many people experience less pain.
HFX is the only spinal cord stimulator that delivers high frequency to reduce, not mask your pain.
Watch how HFX works here:
See if HFX could help relieve your pain
If you’re considering spinal cord stimulation to manage your pain or for a family member or friend, it’s important to know not all spinal cord stimulators have the same patient outcomes and success. HFX effectively manages back and leg pain for nearly 80% of people1.
If you’re exploring options already with a pain management provider, at your next appointment, ask if HFX spinal cord stimulation offered by Nevro could be an option for you.
*Within conditional parameters. Refer to Senza MRI Guidelines for detailed information on MRI safety and conditions.
- Kapural L, et al. Comparison of 10-kHz High-Frequency and Traditional Low-Frequency Spinal Cord Stimulation for the Treatment of Chronic Back and Leg Pain: 24-month Results from a Multicenter, Randomized, Controlled Pivotal Trial. Neurosurgery. Published 09 2016 [Epub ahead of Print].
- Stauss, Thomas et al. A Multicenter Real-World Review of 10kHz SCS Outcomes for Treatment of Chronic Trunk and/or Limb Pain. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. January 2019 (Currently in Press)
- Mirza, Sohail K, and Richard A Deyo. “Systematic review of randomized trials comparing lumbar fusion surgery to nonoperative care for treatment of chronic back pain.” Spine vol. 32,7 (2007): 816-23. doi:10.1097/01.brs.0000259225.37454.38
- Smith, Justin S et al. “Complication rates of three common spine procedures and rates of thromboembolism following spine surgery based on 108,419 procedures: a report from the Scoliosis Research Society Morbidity and Mortality Committee.” Spine vol. 35,24 (2010): 2140-9. doi:10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181cbc8e7
- Deyo, Richard A et al. “Trends, major medical complications, and charges associated with surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis in older adults.” JAMA vol. 303,13 (2010): 1259-65. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.338
- Kapural L., et al. Novel 10-kHz High-frequency Therapy Is Superior to Traditional Low-frequency Spinal Cord Stimulation for the Treatment of Chronic Back and Leg Pain. Anesthesiology, 123(4)
- Senza MRI Guidelines
- Senza Summary of Safety and Effectiveness Data (SSED). Published May 8 2015.
- Published May 8, 2015. Nevro patient satisfaction survey data. Data on file. Calculated 10/1/2020.
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