Living With a Spinal Cord Stimulator: What You Should Know

You’re shying away from invasive surgical solutions or potentially risky medications to manage your chronic pain, and you think that a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) may be your best option for meaningful relief. However, you want to know more, such as what your life will be like once we implant the device.

At Spinal Diagnostics, our team wants to ensure that each of our patients fully understands their treatment options. With that in mind, here, we take a closer look at what it’s like living with a spinal cord stimulator.

Spinal cord stimulation at a glance

If you’re reading this post, it’s likely that you already understand how spinal cord stimulation works, but it’s always helpful to quickly review our goal with this therapy.

Spinal cord stimulation is a neuromodulation technique. We thread electrodes into your spinal cord that deliver electrical impulses that disrupt the pain messaging between your nerves and your brain. We then implant the unit that controls the impulses — the generator — underneath your skin in your abdomen, buttocks, or chest.

Life with your spinal cord stimulator

There are generally few surprises when living with an SCS, as we have you undergo a trial run before we implant the more permanent unit. Our goal is to figure out the best frequencies and bandwidths for your pain management during this trial run.

Once we implant the permanent spinal cord stimulator, we preprogram the generator to your needs, and then it's up to you to activate the device with a remote control as needed. We do give you the option to control the strength and duration of the impulses within a certain range, which allows you to control your pain management better.

For your part, you’ll need to ensure that you charge the system regularly, much as you do the many other chargeable devices in our lives today. Rest assured, we supply you with complete instructions on how to charge your generator.

There are a few other considerations for a spinal cord stimulator. For example, if you travel frequently, airport security systems contain strong electromagnetic fields that can interfere with the function of your SCS. Powerlines or power generators may have the same effect. In these instances, it’s helpful to turn off the SCS until you’re away from these areas.

Certain medical procedures can also interfere with your SCS, such as an MRI, a pacemaker, or radiation therapy. In these cases, we ask that you talk with us beforehand to ensure that one treatment doesn’t negatively impact the other.

Lastly, certain activities, such as scuba diving, may be problematic as the pressure can affect your SCS.

Outside of these issues, most of our clients report that life is back to normal with their SCS systems, except for one major difference — they’re in far less pain.

If you have more questions about living with a spinal cord stimulator, please contact one of our two locations in Tualatin or Newberg, Oregon.

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