Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a proven treatment that can provide relief for some patients suffering from chronic pain. It works by introducing small electrical charges that disrupt the pain signals before they reach the brain. In addition to helping with lower back pain, SCS can be effective for other parts of the body, including legs and arms. According to the U.S. Pain Foundation, chronic pain costs about $635 billion every year in the U.S., including healthcare, disability, and lost productivity costs.

One common approach is to use a small implant that can be recharged as needed. This can be more convenient than a wearable device that is worn outside the body, but frequent recharging can pose problems for patients. Abbott recently announced FDA clearance of their new Eterna spinal cord stimulation system. The company cites this as the smallest SCS device available on the market, but the big draw is that fact that it needs to be recharged as little as five times per year. That’s less than every other month.

The Eterna uses Abbott’s BurstDR stimulation technology, which has been shown to provide better pain relief and was preferred over traditional methods by 87% of the patients in one study. The device has other helpful features, such as being compatible with MRI scans, and the recharging needs can be monitored using a smartphone app.

While implants are clearly more intrusive than a wearable device, the lines between the two are slowly blurring. We envision a future where combinations of implants, wearables, smart fabrics, and other technologies will work together to provide monitoring and treatment of a wide range of health and medical conditions.