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Sacral Nerve Stimulation: A Chronic Pelvic Pain Treatment


Updated September 07, 2009

How Sacral Nerve Stimulation is Done:

Sacral neuromodulation, or sacral nerve stimulation, involves applying a current to certain nerves that exit the sacral or lumbar regions of the spinal cord. In some cases, the current is applied to the peripheral nerves, or the nerves that connect to those leaving the spinal column. Electrodes are implanted at the appropriate level, and the device is adjusted to provide the appropriate current for pain control.

When Sacral Nerve Stimulation Is Used:

Sacral nerve stimulation has been used to successfully treat chronic pelvic pain associated with the following conditions:

Sacral Nerve Stimulation Controls More Than Pain:

While it is a treatment for the pain associated with certain chronic pelvic pain conditions, sacral nerve stimulation also can treat other symptoms associated with those disorders. For instance, it's often effective at decreasing urinary symptoms (urgency, incontinence and retention) associated with diagnoses such as IC, prostatitis and pelvic floor dysfunction. In some people, sacral nerve stimulation also has been effective at reducing bowel incontinence associated with pelvic floor dysfunction.

Will Sacral Nerve Stimulation Work For Me?:

It could. Sacral nerve stimulation appears to be effective in managing both pelvic pain and the urinary and bowel symptoms associated with some chronic pelvic pain disorders. However, while the evidence is good, it remains somewhat limited. There is not much information about the long-term effects of the sacral nerve stimulation, and there are few randomized control trials out there.

Before you consider sacral nerve stimulation, talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits.


Feler Claudio A., Whitworth Louis A and Fernandez Julius. Sacral Neuromodulation for Chronic Pain Conditions. Anesthesiology Clinics of North America. 21 (2003) pp785– 795

Fitzgerald C, Morabito R and Zaslau S. Sacral Neuromodulation Unsuccessful For Pain Control After Failed Radical Cystectomy For Chronic Pelvic Pain. The Internet Journal of Pain, Symptom Control and Palliative Care. 2008 Volume 6 Number 1

Mayer Robert D. and Howard Fred M. Sacral Nerve Stimulation: Neuromodulation for Voiding Dysfunction and Pain. Neurotherapeutics. Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 107-113.

Zabihi Nasim, Mourtzinos Arthur, Maher Mary Grey et al. Short-term Results of Bilateral S2–S4 Sacral Neuromodulation for the Treatment of Refractory Interstitial Cystitis, Painful Bladder Syndrome, and Chronic Pelvic Pain. International Urogynecology Journal. Volume 19, Number 4 / April, 2008. pp 553-557.

National Guideline Clearinghouse. General Treatment of Chronic Pelvic Pain. Accessed 9/1/09. http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?doc_id=12612

Pettit PD, Thompson JR, Chen AH. Sacral Neuromodulation: New Applications in the Treatment of Female Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2002 Oct;14(5):521-5

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