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SCS Questions

sickntiredssickntired Posts: 12
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:53 AM in Spinal Cord Stimulation
Hey y'all. My doctor has recently suggested that I get a SCS, but I have some reservations and questions about it that I am hoping you can help me with. Here's a little background:

I had a L5S1 PLIF with laminectomy and nerve root decompression done Dec 2010 with no reduction in pain. As a result of the surgery, I have more nerve issues in my leg - doc thinks that its from a nerve being irritated. I am currently controlling that with Neurontin 4x a day. My biggest issue is the pain in my lower back that has not changed. I am taking 4 5/325mg Percocet a day, but I am still very limited on what activities I can do.

So, here are my questions:

1) Is the SCS just for nerve pain? I don't think the pain in my lower back is nerve-related (but what do I know?!) If the SCS is just for nerve pain, should I mess with the Neurontin that is currently working for me?
2) Does the surgery require another laminectomy? If so, at what level?
3) Is it too soon after surgery to be considering this?
4) How do you charge it?
5) For those of you that have an SCS, were you able to return to your job?

As you can tell, I have my share of doubts on if this is the right step for me. Any answers or thoughts you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance,
Becky :)


  • Hi Becky. I have a SCS, but mine was done to relieve cervical related pain so my experience is definitely different from what you would have.
    But to answer a couple of your questions, based on my experience:
    1) My understanding is that SCS only addresses nerve pain. Of course, many times when the nerve pain is relieved, the muscular pain that accompanies it is improved. I believe that a lot of my muscle related pain is a result of compensation from the aggravated nerves.
    2) I did have a laminectomy with my SCS but had never had it previously. I guess that will depend on where the leads would be placed for your SCS. They aren't necessarily placed in the same location as your pain generator. I have a paddle lead and it did require laminectomy to be properly placed.
    3)Only your surgeon/pain mgt doctor can address the timing. My SCS was placed about 18 months after my ACDF surgery. If there is any possibility of further surgery to correct a spinal problem, the doctors will not usually consider SCS. It is a "last resort" for pain relief.
    4) My SCS is charged through the skin by either using an adhesive pad that sticks the charger to the skin right over where the battery is implanted in my hip or there is a belt with a pocket that holds the charger right over the battery while it charges. I always use the adhesive pad alternative as I think it is much more efficient and doesn't shift while charging and allows for more movement. I have the Boston Scientific Precision Plus and other SCS units may have different charging options.
    5)Yes, I did return to work after having the SCS implanted. Until the device scars in, you are very limited in activity, so the time away from work could be lengthy. In my situation, I was required to remain "off" of work for 4 weeks and no bending, lifting or twisting for 8 weeks. I was able to work from home during that 4 weeks period thank goodness.

    Good luck making your decision! I'm getting ready to have a complete "re do" of my SCS because mine has failed completely for no known reason, so I'm completely starting over on Tuesday of next week.

  • I have a stimulator that supports my legs. There are some on here that get relief in the back but its all dependent on where the leads are placed.

    1.) An SCS is primarily for nerve pain but it really doesn't care what its trying to block. It's possible that it could block any kind of constant pain. Acute pain has no problem creeping through so the only way to really know is to do a trial.

    2.) You'll only need a laminectomy if you are having paddle leads implanted. I do not have paddle leads hence no laminectomy. The leads will be placed above where the problem area is. Normal placement is somewhere in the lower thoracic area but again there are a couple of us who have our leads at the top of the lumbar area.

    3.) Can't answer that question, but if the Neurontin is working, I would seriously question the wisdom of a stimulator right now. It's possible the back pain can still resolve as time passes. There is no guarantee you'll be prescription free.

    4.) I have a Medtronic. It's held in place by a belt, so I charge while I watch TV. I currently charge twice a week to limit my sessions to around 2 1/2 hours each.

    5.) I never stopped working prior to or after receiving my implant. It becomes part of your routine.

    Hope this helps in answering some of your questions.

  • Thank you for your replies and information. I have given the go-ahead to get the trial started. At this point I have nothing to lose. If it works, great, if not, I'm not any worse off than I am already.

    Thanks again :)
  • As the others have stated, the "company reply" is that neurostimulation is for nerve related pain issues. However, as Dave pointed out, the SCS isn't real picky, so there are many cases of folks having beneficial "side effects". I am fortunate that my SCS helps control my cervical dystonia much to the amazement of the docs. They are seeing this happen in other patients too, so it's not an isolated case.

    The trial doesn't require any surgery (yes there are always exceptions to every rule) and the permanent implant surgery requirements are driven by the patient needs. Paddle lead = laminectomy.

    Is it too soon to be considering SCS? That's a real personal question and one that only you can answer for certain. I know that if I hadn't been through all I had, I wouldn't have as much appreciation for my SCS as I do now. (I have a cervical SCS)

    I was told I should get a second SCS to control my leg and LB pain, but my question to that doc was "why should I do that, when the majority of the pain is control with Neurontin and exercise?" It has been almost 6 years since my last lumbar surgery and I am in no rush to ditch the 4800mgs of Neurontin I take each day!

    I generally charge once a week for about 3-4 hours.

    I did return to work as well as a very active lifestyle that includes scuba diving, horseback riding, gardening, hiking, fishing and working out at the gym.

    Hope this helps.

  • Hi,
    My trial surgery is next week. How are you coming along with your SCS? I am also beyond more serious surgery and have had bad nerve pain in my left thigh ......burns like hell.
  • You give me hope. I am going for my trial next week; but I can't believe your lifestyle. You must be quite young. I just turned 65 and have nowhere else to turn. Are you doing ok now in Oct.?
  • Hello
    I am going in for the initial surgery that enables me to take it
    for a week or so.
    How are things going with you since 2009? I hope you are well.
  • Good luck on your upcoming trial. I've had mine coming on the 2 year mark just before Thanksgiving. It does help. Let us know if you have any questions.

  • Thanks, Dave. I sure will.
  • Which manufacturer is being used for your trial?
  • Good luck on your trial. Yes I am still doing fantastic and enjoying a very full and rich life. I am turning 50 around Christmas and still think and feel like I'm in my 30's.

  • Hi Dave,
    Oh boy, I didn't know there were a bunch of them out there.
    The "brochures" Dr. Maurer gave me are from Boston Scientific. It's called Precision Plus. Ever hear of them?
  • Hi Dave,
    Oh boy, I didn't know there were a bunch of them out there.
    The "brochures" Dr. Maurer gave me are from Boston Scientific. It's called Precision Plus. Ever hear of them?
  • Hi C,
    Thanks for taking an interest in my trial. The burning in my leg and rear end are getting worse every day. I wish it were tomorrow. I know how bad this can get. I pray for relief.
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