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SCS for Cervical and Arm Pain ?

acmdaacmd Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Spinal Cord Stimulation
Hello All, I'm new here and trying to get as much info regarding a scs as I can prior to my trial. I've been suffering from horrible chronic nerve pain in my arms and hands for 5 years. I've had 2 cervical fusions, injections, pt, chiro, acupuncture, and many, many pain meds. A scs is my very last option for some relief.

I've read many posts about scs success for lumbar problems, but haven't found much about success for cervical issues. I'd love to hear your experiences (good and bad) with a scs for CERVICAL and/or ARM PAIN. Anxiously awaiting your responses. Thanks so much!


  • I have an SCS for cervical pain. It covers my neck, shoulders arms and hands. I've had mine for not quite 4 years now and it has allowed me to becoming a very functional individual once again.

    Cervical neurostimulation is much more positional than lumbar, however I found that over time I will adjust my position without thinking about it, to cover the worst pain areas when needed.

    Well worth it!

  • Thank you Hagland. I appreciate your response, great news! When you say you "adjust your position to cover worst pain areas when needed", I'm not sure what you mean? Can you adjust where the stimulation occurs, such as along your arms, hands, shoulders when needed?
  • Let's see if I can explain this. I have my leads programmed where they cover all the areas that I have pain in. On any given day I can have an increase in pain in say the back of one arm into my hand. So just by shifting my head, neck or body in a virtually unnoticeable manner I can focus the stimulation in that area. Or say for instance I adjust how I am sitting in the recliner watching TV to jam the signal stronger to all areas. Basically it's like have amplitude and directional control by simply moving my head or arms in a specific way. By doing this, I am not constantly fiddling with my controller or changing programs all the time.

  • Wow, that is wonderful! Sounds like exactly what I need. I hope my doctor can arrange the leads so that I am able to do that also. I understand exactly what you mean with the pain jumping around from one hand and arm to the other up and down and all around. Kinda has a mind of its own. lol thanks again Hagland!
  • Basically my leads are positioned for optimal coverage of the entire area on both sides. The programming takes advantage of that and then I take advantage of the positionality of the entire system. A lot of folks complain about their SCS being too positional. I think they just gave up or expected to have more than they got. I'm grateful for any relief I get and I have learned to make it work for me within it's design constraints.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  • Well, I'm scheduled for my trial scs surgery this Monday!!! After a year of researching and gathering as much info as I could, I'm finally ready to give it a try. I've also exhausted all other possible options - so this is it!!! I couldn't have gotten to this point without all your help and support. Thanks All!
  • Just remember that trial leads (most especially cervical) are extremely positional and not as stable as the permanent ones. Also, I found it helpful during my trial to turn the SCS off for a couple of hours and then back on. It really opened my eyes to the effectiveness of the SCS in fighting over all body ache.

    Keep us posted.

  • Hi, I'm soooo excited that I found this forum. My husband just had the SCS Trial put in on Monday. He doesn't seem to have the great coverage that you have. His pain is in his shoulder blade area to his tricep and down over the top of his forearm into his pointer and middle fingers. He is getting coverage of his tricep, but not his fingers. Is your pain a numbing type pain in your hand? Are you an active person (sports)? Do you have the paddles? Finally have you had any problems with the leads moving? Thanks so much for any information you can help with.

    acmd - please let me know how it went.
  • I have two of the percutaneous leads. The doc who implanted my SCS said he saw too many problems with paddle leads in the cervical spine where there's so much movement as compared to lower in the spine.

    During the trial, I did not have near the coverage that I received with the permanent. The trial leads are barely tacked in place with a couple stitches in the skin. The permanent leads are anchored to the deep muscle fascia and are far less positional and easier to program for good consistent coverage.

    The only way I have been able to get the coverage I have, is due to having 2 leads. I have all 16 contacts active and they all work together to create a good net of pain coverage. My pain is the kind that makes you want to tear your arm or hand off and smash it into small pieces. My shoulders hurt as if someone is standing on top of them in ice skates and my shoulder blades feel as if an ice pick has been jammed into them.

    I am a very active person and since receiving my SCS, went back to working out, scuba diving, horseback riding, riding motorcycles, gardening, painting, housework, working 4 days a week on my feet for 8 hours straight, hiking, fishing and camping. So yes very active.

    Your husband should be able to meet with the rep for reprogramming of the trial stimulator. This way he could make certain that he can get coverage in the areas needed.

    Tell him I wish him all the best and that I hope his trial goes well.

    Kindest regards,

  • "C" Thank You sooo much for responding.... I read your message to my husband and he got a good chuckle out of the pain description (I also thought I saw a tear come out of his eye). He has just about the exact pain that you described. So far the SCS isn't helping him much. He has had the rep reprogram it once. We have a few more days left so we'll see.
  • One of the things I did during my trial that really helped me with my decision (because it really is a difficult decision) was I turned the trial unit off for a couple of hours. Then I realized how much it was actually helping me with not only my pain, but my overall feeling of well being. It was a real eye opener. Another thing to consider, is that not all reps can and do program the same. One rep has a specific method that seems to work for many and it just might not work for all. Many reps aren't used to programming for cervical patients, so they tend to overdrive the stimulation, sending it too deep and they wind up missing the shoulder blades and traps.

    Also, I have my SCS as a piece of my overall pain management. I also take a muscle relaxer and Neurontin as well as using our hot tub to help keep my muscles from knotting up so badly. What all does your husband use on a daily basis to try and control his pain?

    One last question. How does your husband appear to you, since he had the trial stimulator placed? My husband told me he could see a dramatic difference in me and a friend who I talked to on the phone told me she could hear the difference in my voice.

    Keep us posted.

  • Hi Hagland & Ifat, I enjoyed reading your posts, questions and info, and found it to help me even more. I'm on the 3rd day of my trial (2nd with proper programming), and have it removed in 2 more days. My initial impression was I'm not very happy with it, but I'm trying to make myself remember that 50% relief is considered success.
    The first day, all programs were making my left arm jump and it gave me tremendous shocks. I had to keep it turned off. I met the rep yesterday for re-programming and he noted the upper, back of left arm is extremely sensitive and jumps very easily which created more difficulty in programming. Also, during surgery I had problem with anesthesia so they only put 1 paddle in instead of 2. Dr explained he will put in 2 if I go permanent. I do have 1 program now that is providing some relief, but I have been turning it off for ahwile then back on to help recognize the amount of relief it provides (as Hagland suggested : )
    As of now, Im torn on whether to go for perm. But I'm trying to keep mind open and analyze as best as I can during this trial.

    Ifat - how did your husband make out with trial? Did he get the permanent?
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