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Anyone Have a neurostimulation implant?

edited 06/11/2012 - 7:49 AM in Spinal Cord Stimulation
Hello everyone,

I am new here, but not new to Back problems. Here goes the short story, Last year Back really started acting more than normal and the pain started going down left leg. after several spinal blocks that did not work neurosurgeon recommended disc fusion of L5-S1. Had the fusion done in Sept 09. finally returned to work (Truck Driver) in Nov 09.
Everything was going great until Feb of this year, The pain started up again, only this time worse than before, Had to quit working in June of this year due to not being able to drive and load and unload truck. Another MRI showed post operative defects at surgery location (Scar tissue and what little part of disc that was left in there bulging) So more rounds of physical therapy, did nothing, more spinal blocks, not effect,

Now Since I have been working with a new to me Neurosurgeon he had CT scan done, a EMG done, etc. Met with him today, and he is recommending having a neurostimulation implant put in to block the pain.

What are your experiances with this? he thinks I can get back to work my old job with no problems. I am not sure about that since I load and unload several times per eight hour shift.

I am leaning towards getting implant, just for the fact maybe I can get off the Narcotic pain killers.



  • Lots of members here who have an implant. There's not a lot of folks on here that were fused in place, most get an interbody fusion where they remove the disc. I take it the rest of your back is stable and you just have this residual pain in the butt. I have a similar history where I had L4-S1 fused. I developed Adhesive Arachnoiditis somewhere along the line, maybe before, during, or after. I only get about 40% relief with my stimulator, so its not perfect but it helps to keep the scripts down to a minimum. I'll be honest with you, your doctor might be a little optimistic of you going back to work driving a truck. I'm not saying its impossible, but optimistic. Over the last several months, my wife and I have been taking our oldest on college visits, so we've been doing lots of driving. It takes a lot out of me and I doubt I could hold up for the long haul if I had to do it everyday. The stimulator poses certain restrictions in that you have to be aware that you can pull a lead out of place, flip the IPG (battery), or a host of other problems.

    What prescriptions are you currently taking to help with the pain? Maybe there are some other options. Do you have a lot of nerve pain in the legs or do you have mostly back pain? Have they determined if the hardware is causing any problems via a block around the area? Have you scheduled a trial yet?

    Take your time and read this forum area. Lots of good information and the members that participate in this topic will definitely give you the good, the bad, and the ugly as it pertains to Spinal Cord Stimulation.

  • Dave,

    From the MRI, and CT scan, and all the X-rays that have been done, the NS says the spine is stable and the fusion part took. It is just the Scar tissue that is the main problem in both inside the spinal canal and on the outer left side of the spine.
    My pain is in the L5-S1 area and travels all the way down the left leg into the foot.
    For the pain they have me on a muscle relaxer ( cyclobenzaprine) and Hydrocodone, and to help me sleep they also have me on ambien. and yesterday the NS also gave me another script, but cant remember what it was, wife has the script in her purse and going to get it filled today.

    He gave me the info on the Medtronics implants yesterday and recommened the implant, I go back in Jan to discuss if I want to do the trial. Right now I am leaning towards doing so. I mean I have tried everything else upto and including surgery, and the bad thing is after the surgery i am worse than before.

    I know I may never be able to go back to driving trucks, But they are holding my job for me and I do hope that I will be able to go back. I was getting ready to fill out the disability retirement papers for my work, but I think I will now hold off on that until I see how this works.

    In the meantime I will be going ahead with my SSI Disability case. I have to get some kind of income coming in besides my wifes income.

  • I'm glad that at least your spine is stable. That's important if you want to move forward with a stimulator. An unstable spine causes problems later on and in my opinion the stimulator will lose that battle. I took ambien for about a month, but I was so tired the next day that I just couldn't take it. I now take trazadone as a sleep aid and seriously consider it my miracle drug. Without it, I'd be a walking zombie.

    So, do you have any specific questions for the SCS crew?

  • I agree with Dave. But one other thing.The SCS is not a cure.It does help some people out. But remember. You will never be the sameas you once was. But you will be better off then you are now.As much as doing manual labor. For get it. I also apply for SSD got it the first time. If you need any more infor Get back to me. Iam not a DR just letting you know what is happening to me.


  • It seems like a trial couldn't hurt. I had the trial and it gave me enough relief to opt for the neurostimulator (just had the implant last week). I commute a long distance for my job and due to sciatic pain in my left leg and muscle atrophy driving is a real challenge for me but everyone is different. Technically you're not supposed to drive with the implant turned on although I am sure many do (as my doctor said when he gave me a scrip for dilaudid - so many people are driving while on dilaudid even though they are not supposed to - it didn't comfort me!).

    If nothing else you may find you get enough relief to make your self more comfortable and possibly could drive. Keep us posted.
  • I do not believe you would be able to go back to work at your truck driving job with the SCS implant because of the loading and unloading. To much bending and lifting would cause the leads to slip out of place. Plus the SCS is posetional. Just turning your head can cause you to zap yourself. But once it scars in good it is not quite so bad.

    If the leads move you will no longer get the stimulation where you need it. The Doctor will have to go back in and replace the leads to their origional position. It can be fixed.

    I know the important thing is to be free of your pain and hopefully the SCS will provide that relief.
    Best of luck to you
    Patsy W
  • It's all a personal thing. Just how much you can and do actually do with an implant is really up to the each of us. The companies recommend not driving, because they don't want the liability if you were to be in an accident and blame it on the neurostimulator.

    Most of us have found that after a short bit, we get used to the stimulator and find settings that allow movement in most directions without causing the involuntary muscle movements that cause us to jerk in weird manners.

    I have a c-spine SCS and although it is positional, I have easily adapted to the different positions and use them to my advantage. I could not drive without my SCS. I wouldn't be able to hold my arms up in front of me and grasp the steering wheel. With my SCS I am able to drive several hours non-stop very comfortably and without the risk of involuntary movement.

    Each of us also find out just how much we can or cannot bend with our stimulators. I can do just about anything I want and when I feel it is causing irritation to my wires or anchors, I just back off on that activity. I am able to work stocking cases and cases of beer and wine. This includes reaching down to pick the cases up off the floor and lifting them up to eye level. I use proper body mechanics and let my legs do the majority of the work.

    So basically we are each responsible for our own lives and whether or not we choose to stay home and do nothing, or take advantage of the SCS therapy and get back into life. I was out of work for over 2 years and now I am back to working 2 part time jobs as well as training and riding my horse. I am even able to clean stalls, sweep and mop now. Without my SCS, I would not be able to walk more than a few steps, and certainly would not be able to drive or work.

  • I am 58 with 45 year history of scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis. Fusion or L4-5 and L5-S1 with psudoarthorisis and spondylolisthesis at L5-S1. Retired on disability in 1999. Progressively getting worse with pain radiating down my right leg. First pain md said he wouldn't even touch me with my history, but my primary care MD won't give up. He thinks I would be a candidate for the neurostimulator or pain pump. The question is finding a doctor who will work with someone with such an extensive surgery history. Has anyone had a radiofrequency ablation? I'm also looking into that. Appreciate any feedback.
  • I am interested in more of your back history. I am looking into the stimulator or pain pump as I have a 45 year history of over 10 back surgeries, fusions, casts, braces and so on. Nothing works any longer. So I am interested in communicating with individuals who have had the implant and their success rate.
  • You write: "Lots of members here who have an implant."
    I wish more would post of their experiences with them.

    My current pain management doctor is pushing me to get one for chronic low back pain of over ten years now. I've had numerous procedures, therapies, injections, and drugs to the point of almost being comatose for a couple of years. I am now comfortable with taking 1/2 to 2 30-mg. tabs of morphine a day (don't ask me why it works; I don't know, but it works for me), which allow me to have a pretty normal life.

    I have had nothing but bad experience with invasive procedures (including two stents, two open hearts for a total of 3 bypasses - all which failed - after a heart attack from CAD), which include LASE discectomy in 2003 and another discectomy on L4/L5 and L5/S1 in 2008.

    I have no faith in doctors. I guess what I'm really looking for is info to back up why I don't want this implant. I believe that I will someday be drug free, but if I have the implant, I will never be free of that, nor the subsequent risk of infection, adjustments, new batteries, involuntary body movements (jerking),etc.

    I suspect that if I continue to say no to this procedure, my doctor will eventually refuse to prescribe my pain medication. It's extremely difficult to find a pain management doctor who will prescribe opiates for chronic pain here in FL ~ at least in my area.
  • Well, that's a deep subject. Let me see if I can answer some questions to you.

    1.) You hope to be drug free one day. That's a noble goal and if its at all feesable, don't take it off the table. A stimulator may be able to help you reach that goal. A trial would give you some insight as to whether or not it would.

    2.) Risk of infection is pretty high when you get the implant, but then any surgical procedure is. As for other infections, I would think you're more apt to contract something from the local grocery store rather than from an implant.

    3.) New Batteries. Yeah this is true, you will need a new battery about every 9 years. If it works, that's a pretty small price to pay for pain relief. The procedure to replace the battery is out patient.

    4.) Involuntary body movements. Have no idea where this one is coming from. I have yet to hear of anybody on any forum report that the stimulator causes jerking. I know for some, it does help with muscle spasms.

    With an implant, if you decide you no longer need it, you can either turn it off or have it removed. We would love to give you some more information on a stimulator. Why don't you take the time to start a new thread and tell us a little about yourself. Everyone here really appreciates what their stimulator does for them. Does that make it right for everyone? Nah, but for those that do a trial and it doesn't work can at least say that its been taken off the table or they've scheduled their permanent implant.

  • janiemcman ~ I had Lumbar RadioFrequency Ablation (RFA) performed 5/27/10. My relief lasted 8 hours or less each time and it was a waste of my time, money, and the money from my insurance company. I've had chronic low back pain since December 1999.

    My MD said the first time was a test to see if it would be effective. I asked him what would determine whether it would be effective or not. He was rather vague, but seemed to believe that any relief for up to even 7-8 hours was a good indicator it would be successful. Edited

    I now believe that we have the power to resolve our our problems. I'm working toward that goal and feek confident that I will overcome.

    Good luck to you.


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    Post Edited by Moderator haglandc
  • I had a L4-S1 fusion with back and insane leg pain. The fusion took I was doing well then I guess the scar tissue started wrapping it's ugly head around my L5-S1 nerves.

    My SCS experience had been rough at 1st. I did get an infection, waited until treatment was over then had a re-implant 4mon later. Ive had it ever since. This was 18months ago....

    I love it ! I was able to reduce my meds and my leg pain in particular. We did go "looking" for my back pain, which was tricky. I had a great doc willing to be patient and a great programmer who found a "back" program that works for my back if it starts while I'm trying to do something.

    After I got stronger I was able to FLY again to visit family. I can sit through dinner. I can walk for a bit without a sure crippling feeling to come on right away. I still cannot work though. Aside from pain my leg has functional problems.

    I feel the SCS is one more tool here to help me get through what's going on in this nightmare. It was not a cure all, not meant to be, everyone who is considering a SCS please keep that in mind. However, I feel there isn't anything to lose by trying the trial.

    I am thankful I was given a second chance for an implant.
    if anyone has specifics about my experience, feel free to PM me, I'm happy to answer if I can.
    Take Care

  • I am considering a Econ min neurostimulaor implant for chronic pain for my 1994 L2-L3-L4-L5 Harrington rod/pentacle screw fusion.1994 technique's where quite different then todays. I did have a stim implant done in 96 and it failed but that was 96 techniques and equipment, todays are quiet different I am told. Any one have a start to finish review of this ? My research has turned up very different success story's because of the wide range of the implants itself. Paddles vs percutaneous leads ? One simple install other major surgery. One better then the other ? Has any one had this done ?
  • JanieMcMan:

    Yes I have had the radiofrequency ablation (neurotomy) about a year or so ago. At first, it seemed to make the pain less. But soon, I was right back to where I started (or even had a little more pain).

    As someone else has stated "we are all individuals and each treatment behaves differently for each person".

    You should give it a try. It just might work for you. I really didn't have any side effects from the procedure.

    Good luck.
  • One of the main reasons I want an SCS is so I am able to sit without intense pain. I have had 5 major spinal surgeries, too many injections under anesthesia to count, am on narcotic pain relievers. muscle relaxer, and a nerve drug, but still have significant pain. I am having the trial device installed on July 20th, just a week and a half away. I rarely drive now due to having to take pain meds in order to sit at all. I am hoping that the SCS helps my pain enough that I can drive more. Right now even sitting for 1 to 2 minutes causes me extreme pain. So I want to be able to leave the unit on when driving. I will talk to my doctor about this too. but would appreciate any feedback from all of you!


  • After reading down a few more posts, I got the answer I needed about driving with the SCS on! Your post has given me hope, although I do realize that it works differently on everyone. But my hope and prayers are all that I have right now; plus the great people on here!

    Thanks again,

  • jayciejc:

    Yes you can drive with the SCS on. The reps have to tell you that you need to turn it off; however, the last rep I asked that question to just winked at me and said "yes you should turn it off while driving; however, its really up to me what I want to do". She said she has to tell me that. She also asked me if I drive while on my pain medication. Of course I do. She said "does that stop you from driving?" Of course not. So I had my answer. You'll see when going through the trial that if you're not careful you'll "jolt" yourself. Oh I did it twice in a row...yikes! You won't do it again if you can help it. The rep actually did it to me while we were trying to make the initial adjustments. She hadn't yet given me the StimProgrammer with the red panic button. It turns everything off.

    I'm going in to have the implant on July 22nd. I am going with the Boston Scientific system. I actually had the trial with the Medtronic system. The doctor gave me the opportunity to try the Boston Scientific during my trial. In my opinion, the BS system worked better for me and seemed to target my pain areas better.

    Good luck with your trial. Let me know if I can answer any other questions.

    Take care.
  • RoseF said:

    I'm going in to have the implant on July 22nd. I am going with the Boston Scientific system. I actually had the trial with the Medtronic system. The doctor gave me the opportunity to try the Boston Scientific during my trial. In my opinion, the BS system worked better for me and seemed to target my pain areas better.

    I am curious as to how your doc was able to do a trial with two different neurostimulators especially since one is a constant current system and the other is a constant voltage system.

    Can you fill us in on the details.

  • Rose,

    Thanks you for replying. I hope if the Medtronic doesn't work with me that my insurance will pay for me to try the Boston Scientific. Best of luck to you with your new one.

  • Hello
    I have had the implant for 2 weeks now on a trial basis,the are pros and cons it seems to help a bit in the pain area, however I have found that I cannot drive as I get shocked from the implant have been told by the Drs that is common along with bendng over I get shocked it makes you stand up in a hurry,anyway the trial period is over this week having it removed then have a week to decide if I'm ging to procede with the permanent procedure
  • JimpaJJimpa Posts: 1
    edited 02/09/2013 - 6:07 AM
    It is really sad to learn about your problem. Back pain leads you to distress and it also arises problems in your personal and professional life. There are various medical treatment available for back pain. Failed back syndrome (FBS), also called "failed back surgery syndrome" (FBSS), refers to chronic back and leg pain that occurs after spinal surgery. The dics fusion you have done has not been affective and neurostimulation implant can be good choice for you to get rid of this problem. I recently came to know about [EDIT] where one reason a person will seek treatment from a physician as well as a main contributor to employee absenteeism in the workplace which I have never heard of before. I do not have a hefty information on this type of treatment but I am looking to do a good research to know about different treatment available.

    Link removed, solicitation not permitted
    Post Edited by The Spine-Health Moderator Team
  • I recently had my SCS trial. I thought it was working at first as I got some relief in my lower back and legs/feet. As it went on I realized it wasn't helping my tailbone pain, which is my worst problem. I can't sit for any length of time without pain. So I opted out of a permanent one at this time. I am going to try to get on a new med next month to see if it helps me more. This seems like it can be a never ending battle. It can really have detrimental effects on your personal life. There is a letter in the chronic pain forum you can look up called Letter To Normals. You can see that it happens to a lot of people because others just cannot get that we are in such intense pain all the time. I hope that things work out for you, and you get pain relief soon.

  • I had the trial of the neurostimulator. For me, the result was life changing. I am waiting to be approved for permanent implant. I would say that the pain was relieved more than 80% which is amazing. I had 4 vertibrae fused and now have a bulge in the disc above the surgery.
  • Hello everyone! I had a back surgery (laminectomy, an intramedural tumor was removed...thanks God it was a good tumor, and didn't grew again also) in 2007. In 2009 I started to experience shooting pain in my right leg, and the dr put me in hydrocodone. Now I'm taking 4 pills a day of gabapentin (500mg) and 5-6 of hydrocodone( 1-10T). There are good days when I'm taking only 1-2 hydrocodones. Scar tissue formed, and the drs told me that they do not reccomend another surgery and sent me to pain management. The thing is that I didn't try anything to solve my problem, as they all insist that I should have this implant. But what's the point if I still have to take pills?? I have to mention that my surgery was performed perfect (I've got lucky, I think, to find a very good neurosurgeon in Italy), and beside this shooting pain, I am ok. Yes, I'm experiencing a weakness in my right leg (but that was before the surgery) even if the drs said is strong, in some areas of my legs I do have a low sensibility, I do not walk perfect (I think is a habbit) and I can't run. Beside all this I function perfect, I can do anything (from working, cleaning, lifting, carrying, sitting, standing...anything that a person without health problems can do). Now, my pain specialist prescribed me Butrans patch (10mg), which I didn't bought yet because I've read that they are addictive. Are these patches worst than the hydrocodone? There are other medicines (non-narcotics) that could work for me?
    So, my question is: did you try anything else (even if didn't work for you) before you accepted the implant? Is there anything else that I can do?
    Please, please help me with some answers!
    And excuse me for my bad english (the last english lesson I've had it was in 1998).
    Thank you for taking your time to read my story!
  • pipedoctorppipedoctor Posts: 1
    edited 02/17/2013 - 8:29 AM
    I am 60 years old now, and have had a Boston Scientific implant for a little over 5 years now. It has really changed my life. I do not use any pain meds anymore, and I am pain free 99% of the time. While the implant does not cure anything, it does a wonderful job for me. When you do something you should not do, you may get that painful grab. So, it does let you know, don't do that. then the pain goes away. I had injured my back at work when I was young, and thought that would be it. but when I got older, I developed stenosis pretty bad. so I had a laminectmy on L3 and L4. That helped to a degree, but the pain would come back and put me out of commission for three days. They wanted me to use long term pain management. But when I took the pain meds, I did not want to do anything. So, we went with the implant. I am very careful about what I do, and it is great. As it was said, "You have to know your limitations". Live within that, and they work pretty well.
    It was a battle with the insurance company for a while. Because it did not cure anything, they did not want to pay for it. After about 6 months of haggling, it was approved. I think the hospital bill was somewhere around $60,000.00. the part that I was surprised at, was the requirement to go see a psychiatrist. They want to make sure you are alright with having something implanted in your body. I was told that some people were getting them, then couldn't deal with the thought of it, and having it removed. A huge waste of time and money. For me, the relief from the pain, was well worth the effort.
  • After I've been told in the US that I have to live with this pain all my life, I contacted my neurosurgeon from Italy, who told me to start an enzyme therapy. Read about enzymes so you understand what they are, how they work (they're required for each chemical actions that take place in our bodies).
    The thing is that they cannot be patented, so they are not interesting for the big Pharma. Beside, in the US more sick people are, better for the hospitals... Which isn't fair for us...
    In Europe this treatment is used for many, many years and believe it or not, I started 4 weeks ago and I have an incredible relief, dropped my Oxy to 3 a day. My pain specialist who told me last month that he doesn't believe in miracles (even if he perfectly know what enzymes are, and that they help), now is kind of voiding me...
    the 2 strongest enzymes that dissolve the scar tissue, block the pain and have anti-inflammatory properties are: serrapeptase and nattokinase. The serrapeptase must be enterically coated because is very sensitive to the Ph.
    Read more about this. I know that my dr told me that the scar tissue will be dissolved in time, but I am already feeling this relief due to the anti-inflammatory and the pain blocking attributes that the enzymes I takehave.
    My formula, as given by my neurosurgeon:
    -300,000 HUT protease(proteolytic enzymes)
    -30,000 IU enteric coated serrapeptase
    -250 FU nattokinase
    -papain, bromelain, rutin
    I take this 3 times day, one hour before or after the meals.
    High dssage for begginers is adviced (better to low the dossage on the way feeling better than trying to find the right dosage in pain)
    Hope you all will feel better! Look for a good dr, that do not just want the money!
  • skielinensskielinen Posts: 1
    edited 01/27/2014 - 6:25 AM
    Hello there.. I am currently going through the trial. I was injured in Gulf War, had 8 surgeries to left ankle over 20 years, Dislocation with multiple fractures oaf the Talus plus shattered toes. The surgeons cut the nerve on the top of the foot to spread the ankle apart and fix the Talus with long screws, so now I have constant burning in the toes, when I step it shoots pain even worse as there is some nerve damage under the ball of the foot from the metal stints in my toes. I spent almost 4 years getting to this point with the VA, between the Pain Clinics, the medications and other "treatments". Last week I just had the trial inserted and now it is even worse. First, the doctor stated before the trial the implant would be able to reduce the pain in the foot. This is not true, and now admit it might not be able to get the adjustments to the area. Worse, since I walk funny, my leg and lower back have a curve to the spine, flat back, sciatica and my back muscles are in constant spams (hurt like heck). The leads are inserted just to the right of the erector muscle and causing the back muscles to spasm.
    The doctor was informed of this and said nothing. The only thing was mentioned was to move the leads down and it might take several weeks to start getting relief. They state you cannot drive with the stimulator and I agree, besides having the connector to the leads rubbing against your back, it is impossible to lean back or sleep on my back. Let alone drive and make some drastic spine movement without getting the "shocks" and loose control..

    My advise for those with nerve damage to toes or foot is not to try this, they want to sell the device, get surgery time, bill insurance for something they KNEW would not reduce the pain. The only foot sensation using this and the 4 different settings I can feel is the arch and heel. That is all. Worst decision of my life for two reasons, 1. The original pain is not gone or any relief and 2. the leads are causing more muscle spams in my back. I must go thorough this as the VA is tricky about compensation if I am to file for an increase.
  • I use a 2 memory form type pillows I made for surgery. You can find out by reading earlier posts from me. put 1 on each side of spine so there is NO pressure on spine when I drive, sit or lean against couch.
    ALSO< if you read back to Ricki's post, she had a Medtronic it got some pain...then they put in a Boston Sci for her foot pain. She has 2 units and she is thrilled. The medtronic didnt get the foot. The BS did check it out
  • Skielinen
    Has TerriP has said I have a medtronics unit which was implanted about four years ago for low back and leg pain from several surgeries and cervical spinal cord damage.
    About two years ago left ankle pain became uncontrollable. Several reprogramings did not help me out. I needed a second unit because leads had to be placed lower for coverage into ankle. I feel your issue is where your leads are not the unit. A great not a good programmer might be able to hit your ankle but it will take time plus the type of lead, perc or paddle can make a huge difference also.
    My guess is they used perc leads on you that might be in the wrong place but can work.
    We went with a paddle on my first unit and a paddle on my second unit.
    Paddle leads require more surgery, more pain and longer recovery but have higher chances of working out for you in the long run.
    My paddle for unit one is up around T8 and that did cover me almost for everything from my low back down. At implant of unit 2 we found major scar tissue inside spinal canal at the L2 area where my second paddle needed to be placed just to hit my left foot good.
    They have a few sweet spots to place leads at for the best coverage but hey guess what we are all different and they don't always work where others do.

    Don't give up yet. These can be a life.saver. I do think your leads need to be repositioned and reprogramming needs to be done to get you some coverage.
    Medtronics is a good company and they have done a lot for me. My second unit is a Boston Sci unit. I went with it for several reasons and my doctors thought that it would be better for the foot. Trial was excellent. The main reason for me using a BS unit for number two is that it has a port for more leads and I will need a unit in my cervical area at some point. The BS unit will cover this with the extra port that medtronics doesn't have. I don't want a third unit implanted.

    I know a.woman that had a smashed ankle that was fused together and major nerve damage. She has a medtronics unit that covers almost all of her ankle pain. I know it can be done.
    The biggest problem I have found is the experience of our doctors and our reps doing the programming. They make a huge difference.
    The medtronics unit has about 44,000,000 combinations of settings depending on how many contacts on your leads. I would get a different rep to try to program first and go from there.


    I have had many many surgeries but I have not been neutered yet. LOL
    Ouch now I am in more pain. Ha ha
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