Over the course of the past few years, I’ve been asked about my position on the use of a spinal cord stimulator as a treatment for severe, treatment-resistant pain. I’m treating a patient this week with an SCS (turned off during the 10-treatment cycle) and received another query last night via Facebook, so I’ve composed my own personal position statement on the subject, based upon my experience:
First, each patient’s medical condition is unique and the prescribing doctor must use all of his resources to procure the most viable treatment plan offering the best chance of a successful outcome. My opinion is based upon the patients I have treated over the years with these implanted devices.
How Calmare Therapy’s electric transmission differs from SCS
SCS is, at best, a temporary relief. There seems to be about a three to six- month period when it can be optimally effective. The SCS functions like a tens machine which transmits a single current. Conversely, Calmare’s scrambler therapy technology offers 16 different currents which constantly alternate so that no one sequence is repeated during a treatment. This variability prevents the brain from learning to tolerate it (as with the SCS) and therefore will not accommodate to it.
Why is the SCS often a short-term solution for pain relief? The brain will learn to tolerate a single consistent current and ultimately it will be less effective. The SCS is especially tricky for the RSD / CRPS patients due to the surgical implantation involved and the potential for the development of additional pain symptoms after the procedure.
Cost Benefit Analysis
Another practical aspect is the cost of the SCS, which can be more than $60,000, sometimes partially covered by insurance, but often not. To me, when you compare the cost of 10 Calmare treatments ($2,500 total) combined with the fact that it is:
• has no painful side effects
• doesn’t involve any pharmaceutical use
• cleared by the FDA
It does make me wonder why the SCS garners so much attention.
Many patients using the SCS experience some anxiety when I tell them their device will be shut off for 10 days, which is certainly justifiable. As a Calmare provider, there is nothing better than having these patients later tell me they have no need to turn it back after their treatment cycle is complete.
If you or a loved one has the SCS device implanted and it is not providing the desired results, please contact our office so we can learn more about your medical history, treatment efforts, medication usage and personal experience with your device. From this information, we can mutually determine if scrambler therapy might be a viable treatment alternative for you.