For folks with extremely serious injuries causing severe chronic pain, workers’ compensation can cover a spinal cord pain stimulator. But it’s a huge expense—meaning you can expect the workers’ comp insurance company to put up a huge fight against it, no matter how bad you need it.
Spinal cord stimulators are the treatment of last resort for excruciating, chronic pain. That means all other treatment options have failed to provide sufficient relief. A pain stimulator can help improve your quality of life, including sleep. Pain stimulators require two surgeries, plus testing to adjust to the proper levels to address your pain. And they aren’t the only answer. Folks with pain stimulators still require other treatments, like medication, physical therapy, exercise, and even psychiatric or psychological counseling.
If you find yourself in the harsh position of needing a pain stimulator, here’s more information about them and how you can protect your right to getting one through workers’ comp, including a proper financial settlement for your injuries. A tip of the hat to Johns Hopkins, whose website I used to gather medical info about pain stimulators.
Workers’ Comp Injuries That May Require a Spinal Cord Stimulator
A pain stimulator can be used to treat or manage pain from common, serious work injuries, including:
- Back pain, especially pain that exists even after surgery, as in “failed back surgery syndrome.”
- Spinal cord injuries, including herniated or blown spinal cord disks.
- Nerve pain, like neuropathy, that can be related to spinal cord injuries.
- Complex regional pain syndrome, an agonizing and disabling condition that can result from severe injury.
- Pain after amputation of an arm, leg, or even fingers and toes.
What Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
A pain stimulator is a medical device implanted in your back that sends low-level electrical impulses—yes, electricity—directly into your spinal cord. The spinal cord stimulator is made up of thin wires called electrodes and a small battery pack called the generator. Your surgeon implants the electrodes between your spinal cord and vertebra [back bones] in a space called the epidural space. The generator gets implanted under your skin, usually near your rear end or in your abdomen.
The spinal cord stimulator works by giving you some control: when you feel intense pain, you can send the impulses using a remote control.
What’s the Process to Get a Spinal Cord Pain Stimulator?
When all other treatment options fail, doctors consider pain stimulators. The recommendation usually comes from your pain management doctor or pain specialist.
- Psychological screening. The first step may surprise you—it’s often a psychological screening to make sure a psychological condition isn’t making your pain worse. If so, maybe psychiatric or psychological treatment can help instead of the drastic measure of a spinal cord stimulator.
- Trial. If the psychological assessment shows you’re a candidate for the pain stimulator, the next step is a spinal cord stimulator trial. This is exactly what it sounds like: a test to see if the pain stimulator will work for you. A surgeon implants a temporary stimulator by making a cut in your back and installing the electrodes in your spine’s epidural space. The generator stays outside your body for now, usually on a belt that you wear around your waist. For about a week or so, you evaluate how well the device manages your pain. If it’s reduced 50% or more, it’s a success. You’re now a candidate for permanent implantation.
- Implantation. Your surgeon removes the trial device. He replaces it with a permanent spinal cord stimulator, including the electrodes. He installs the generator inside your body, around your rear end or abdomen.
This usually takes between one and two hours and you can home once cleared by doctors.
What’s at Stake in Your Workers’ Compensation Case If You Need a Pain Stimulator
Since you’re dealing with a workers’ compensation insurance company, here’s what should worry you: No doubt about it, this is one of the most expensive procedures in all of workers’ compensation.
A spinal cord stimulator involves two surgeries and lifelong medical care for not just your injuries, but also maintaining the pain stimulator. You’ve got a battery-powered machine in you. We all know electronic devices fail and batteries run out.
To make the insurance company fight even harder, from a financial standpoint, you can qualify for some of the highest monetary benefits available. You can qualify for permanent and total disability or wage loss.
All this potential expense makes the insurance company see red. No, they don’t care about you. The insurance company will fight to save its money because you are cutting deeply into their profits. They will fight your doctors on whether you need the device. They will harass you into a cheap settlement, so they don’t have to pay.
You Need Legal Help for a Spinal Cord Pain Stimulator
You’re beaten down enough. You can’t afford to cheat yourself out of the rights you need desperately. You’ve got medical professionals on your side, which is critical to your case.
Pain stimulator cases present complex legal challenges to obtaining maximum benefits—discover how we addressed that to help a client.
You need a legal professional. Hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights and create a legal strategy for a spinal cord stimulator settlement that’s right for you.
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