Chronic back and leg pain patients now have an alternative treatment to relieving pain and improving quality of life: spinal cord stimulation (SCS) therapy with a higher frequency.

Published in Anesthesiology, the report found that patients who receive a novel high frequency form of SCS therapy (which uses frequency pulses of 10,000 Hz) find greater pain relief than patients who undergo a traditional low level frequency form of SCS therapy (which uses frequencies of 40 to 60 Hz).

SCS is designed to alleviate chronic pain by delivering electric pulses to the spinal cord through a small device implanted under the skin.

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Of the 171 participants examined for the study, more than half received a high frequency form of SCS therapy, also known as HF10 therapy. The remaining had traditional SCS.

Researchers followed up with study participants after three months. In the HF10 therapy group, 85% of back pain and 83% of leg pain patients experienced a 50% reduction in pain or greater. Only 44% of back pain and 56% of leg pain patients in the traditional SCS group experienced a 50% reduction in pain.

After 12 months, researchers saw similar results; HF10 therapy remained more effective. More patients in the HF10 therapy group reported being “very satisfied” with their pain relief.

“Chronic back and leg pain have long been considered difficult to treat and current pain relief options such as opioids have limited effectiveness and commonly known side effects,” said Leonardo Kapural, MD, lead study author and professor of anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and clinical director at Carolinas Pain Institute at Brookstown in Winston-Salem, N.C., in a statement. “Given the prevalence of chronic pain, high frequency SCS is an exciting advance for our patients.”


1. Kapural L, et al. Anesthesiology; doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000000774.