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Time to ask doctor about SCS???

firemankenffiremanken Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Spinal Cord Stimulation
Hi everyone,

Next week I meet with my surgeon and I'm 6 months post-op from a posterior L-4/L-5 fusion with all the hardware. Every thing "looks good" when it comes to how the fusion is progressing and everything does look good on xrays, mri's and ct's from my surgery.

Here's the problem: at 6 months post-op I am still on oxycontin and percosets to help control the pain. The sad part is even with all the meds I am not pain free. With the meds my pain level is still 7-8 out of 10 with certain movements still putting me in the 10 out of 10 scale. I've had problems with the meds such as daily headaches, "drunk feeling" and dizziness among other things.

My pain is lower back right and left sided. I can't still sit or stand for long periods of time. I have outside foot pain on the right side and instep foot pain on the left side.

I've had 2 epidural shots within the last few weeks with no positive results.

I have to get off all these meds. I can't function mentally on these meds.

Is a spinal cord stimulator something I approach my doctor about? Is it too soon?


  • Just my personal opinion here, but yes I believe you are jumping the gun a bit. 6 months post op from a lumbar fusion, is still early in the overall healing process. I'm sorry that you hurt and that the drugs aren't helping. Has your doctor said that all avenues have been exhausted? Are you being treated by a Pain Management doc, or still your surgeon? Has your doc discussed waiting until you are fused and trying a hardware block to see if the hardware itself is the cause?

  • I would have to agree with C here. At 6 months, your still growing new bone which can cause a lot of inflammation. My suggestion would be to see how your Doctor wants to play it. He might want to do some tests to determine if your hardware is causing you some problems.

    Just a little FYI, I had my hardware removed at 10 months which provided some relief and at the 2 1/2 year mark I had my SCS implanted. It's a long road to travel, so you need to find a way to wrap your brain around the long haul. It sucks but we'll be here to help you out if you need to vent.

  • thanks for the info. i will atleast have some questions to ask my doctor. I was just hoping to help with my pain because i am a profession firefighter and it will be very hard to do my job. I can't imagine having to carry anyone down three flights of stairs on a rescue call or do the things i have to do at a fire. I only have a 18 month window from the date of injury to be back or the city will force me out.

  • I agree that it is too early to give up on your back still healing. Usually doctors will not give up on a fusion until after the first year has passed. Also, the bone will not be set up until 12 months' time. Then exercise and "stressing" the back through the right activities makes the new bone even stronger.

    It may be that you are just not on the correct meds. If you are having nerve pain, you need different medications. The opioids will not have an effect on nerve pain.

    These are all issues to discuss with your surgeon. Your pain level should not be that high on a daily basis. I would ask your surgeon to figure out what is going on. If you get the "it takes a long time for nerves to heal" speech, you need to suggest trying a drug for nerve pain...the common ones being Neurontin (generic is gabapentin) or its newer big brother, Lyrica.

    But do ask whether the hardware could be causing your pain. The pain in your feet sounds more like nerve pain that is being referred from the spine.

    Good luck, and let us know what happens.
    The recovery for fusion is LONG and hard, so don't give up. Many of us have been through this and continue to get better...sometimes even after the first year mark.

  • If you are wanting to stay active as a firefighter, then the last thing that you want to do is get an SCS implanted. Although they provide assistance with pain management, they are very restrictive in other ways. One of the most notable restrictions placed on a person with an SCS implanted, is flexibility. I went through 2 revisions on my SCS because I felt good enough to return to doing Yoga and lots of stretching and core training. I tore my anchors loose, pulled out my strain relief loops and loosened a screw up on my IPG. As a firefighter you make split second decisions and the last thing you have time for is worrying whether or not what you do will damage your implant, or cause the leads to migrate.

    Charging is also another big consideration. Life has to be planned around charging and usually lumbar SCS systems consume batteries far faster. Although there are still non-rechargeable systems, they just require the battery to be changed out every 5 years vs every 9-10 years.

    EMI is also another big consideration, and I would venture to guess you are exposed to more sources of EMI than the average person on the street.

    So while the technology is a definite step in the right direction, it might not be the direction that you want to be taken in.

    Kindest Regards,

  • thanks for all the great comments.

    I have trying both neurontin and lyrica but the side effects of both these meds were horrible for me so I had to get off.

    Also, i did have a recent EMG and everything was normal.

    I see my doctor on Wednesday.

  • Great news on the EMG. Just try to be patient and hopefully you have a great pain free summer.

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