How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial Work?

Oct 04, 2023
How Does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial Work?

Sometimes, changing how your brain receives pain signals is the best way to prevent pain from disrupting your life. One way to do that is with a spinal cord stimulator, an implantable device. However, you may want to know how well it will work before you get an electrical device implanted in your body. 

At Pain Consultants of Atlanta, our staff and providers understand that chronic pain can make it difficult to meet your daily obligations or even enjoy activities that bring you happiness. We offer numerous pain management approaches, including an implantable spinal cord stimulator, which disrupts the signals your nerves send to your brain. First, though, we ask that you try it to ensure it works well. 

How a spinal cord stimulator works

Chronic pain can result from many different conditions. You can usually expect your provider to begin your treatment with the least invasive and most conservative treatment option. For example, physical therapy is often a first-line treatment, progressing to medication, injections, or other minimally invasive treatments. 

Sometimes, those don’t work, and you’re still in pain. In those cases, we may suggest a spinal cord stimulator, a small electrical device attached to very thin insulated wires called leads. The leads are placed in the space around your spinal canal. Then, electrical pulses disrupt the signals your nerves are sending. 

Rather than pain, you may feel a mild tingling sensation or nothing at all. Once the device is implanted, you’re given a controller to adjust the intensity and duration of the electrical pulses to relieve your pain as you need to. 

The trial period

Because having a device implanted in your body carries some risks — any surgical procedure has some risk involved — and because spinal cord stimulators don’t work well for everyone, you need to find out if it’s the right treatment approach for you. 

During the trial period, which usually lasts about a week, the device is attached to a belt you wear, and the wires are taped down on your back. We may ask you to track when you have pain, how well the device works, and other notes about what you experience during the trial to help assess whether it’s the best approach for you. 


The conditions that we suggest a spinal cord stimulator for most often include: 

  • Back pain
  • Pain due to diabetic neuropathy
  • Complex regional pain syndrome, Types I and II

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and we may also suggest a spinal cord stimulator for other types of pain. Although surgery is involved, this treatment can be effective and doesn’t have the same kinds of risks associated with pain medication and other potential treatments. 


If you have questions about what to expect during the procedure to place a spinal cord stimulator for a trial period, or you have questions about the device more generally, schedule an appointment at any of the convenient locations of Pain Consultants of Atlanta. We’re always happy to answer your questions in the context of your situation.