Peripheral nerve stimulation is a technique in which a small amount of electrical current is introduced to the nerves along the course of peripheral nerves to control pain.
The patient experiences this as a pleasant tingling sensation. By stimulating nonpainful sensory pathway, the electrical current tricks the brain into turning off (or significantly attenuating) the painful signals. In this manner, pain relief occurs. In general, most patients are then able to reduce or discontinue altogether their pain medications.
Nerve stimulation is performed in a two-step process. First there is a temporary trial electrode. This is left in place for a week or so, so that the patient may determine if peripheral nerve stimulation is helpful. The electrode is connected to an external power supply that the patient controls. In the event that the stimulator does not help, it is removed. If it does help, the temporary electrode is replaced with a permanent electrode that is then connected to an internal battery pack, similar to a pacemaker battery. Once in place, the patient may then resume normal activities of daily living, including swimming, exercise, and work.
Patients with the following conditions who have failed all standard medical therapies may benefit: Complex regional pain syndromes, nerve injuries from trauma or previous surgery or long-standing back pain.