Neuromodulation of the cervical spinal cord in the treatment of chronic intractable neck and upper extremity pain: a case series and review of the literature

Pain Physician. 2007 Mar;10(2):305-11.


Electrical spinal neuromodulation in the form of spinal cord stimulation is currently used for treating chronic painful conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, peripheral ischemia, low back pain, and other conditions refractory to more conservative treatments. To date, there are very few published reports documenting the use of spinal cord stimulation in the treatment of head/neck and upper limb pain. This paper reports a case series of 5 consecutive patients outlining the use of spinal cord stimulation to treat upper extremity pain. All subjects had previously undergone cervical fusion surgery to treat chronic neck and upper limb pain. Patients were referred following failure of the surgery to manage their painful conditions. Spinal cord stimulators were placed in the cervical epidural space through a thoracic needle placement. Stimulation parameters were adjusted to capture as much of the painful area(s) as possible. In total, 4 out of 5 patients moved to implantation. In all cases, patients reported significant (70-90%) reductions in pain, including axial neck pain and upper extremity pain. Interestingly, 2 patients with associated headache and lower extremity pain obtained relief after paresthesia-steering reportedly covered those areas. Moreover, 2 patients reported that cervical spinal cord stimulation significantly improved axial low back pain. Patients continue to report excellent pain relief up to 9 months following implantation. This case series documents the successful treatment of neck and upper extremity pain following unsuccessful cervical spine fusion surgery. Given this initial success, prospective, controlled studies are warranted to more adequately assess the long term utility and cost effectiveness of electrical neuromodulation treatment of chronic neck and upper extremity pain.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arm / innervation*
  • Arm / physiopathology
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Epidural Space
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck / innervation*
  • Neck / physiopathology
  • Neck / surgery
  • Neck Pain / therapy
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / surgery
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / therapy*
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome