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SCS... Is it like a TENS????

My surgeon is suggesting a SCS. I have a consult with the PM doc on July 26 and am really excited/curious/skeptical/hopeful, etc. I feel like I am putting a lot of faith in the SCS working for me, hoping and praying it allows me to at least reduce some of my pain meds. I know I will have a trial to see if it is going to help, before having it actually implanted, but am just wanting some info from others that have one already.

What type of sensation is it?

Is it like a TENS and you can constantly feel an electrical current?

Is it something that you are always aware of? Or do oyu get used to it and it is not so obvious?

The thing I am worried about is that I tried a TENS unit and did not like it too much. I talked to my surgeons asst last week when I made the appointment for the SCS consult and she said it really isn't like a TENS, but then I have heard others, on SH, say that they loved the TENS and that's basically why they love the SCS so much.

Any feeback is, as always, greatly appreciated!



  • backbback Posts: 190
    edited 07/16/2012 - 9:17 AM
    I've had my stimulator almost 3 years now. I've never used a TENS before so I really can't relate to that. I keep my stimulation pattern right at the point where you know its there and you don't know it. I equate the feeling to something like a manufactured tingling/buzzing in my legs. There are times when everything is right, I have the feeling of just before when your leg or hand goes to sleep or when it its wearing off. I do not like the stimulation strong. When its strong it just seems to lay on top of my pain giving me one more thing to focus on. It took me a long time, about 6 months to truly adjust to the feeling. It's not a bad thing, just took that long for me to no longer notice it. I run my stimulator 24/7. I charge twice a week and it takes about 2 1/2 hours to charge. From what I have read, I run my stimulator a little harder than everyone else. I love my stimulator and have no idea what I would do if I didn't have it.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with your trial.

  • MelWMMelW Posts: 427
    edited 07/16/2012 - 9:51 AM
    Thanks for the quick response. I am ready for the trial to see if it's going to work. I really can't wait!
  • It sounds like you have had a very "hard row to hoe" up to now. I am so sorry for you. I love my tens - it helps a good bit. That being said, based upon my trial (which I had about a month ago) I would say that the stimulator is it's own therapy. I actually expected them to be more similar than they were. To be sure, the philosopy is the same. That is to say, both are based on the idea of interrupting the pain impulses being sent to the brain. From my perspective, a tens unit is more tactile and the scs was deeper down - much deeper down. In the first case, it feels like the tens unit sends signals to my muscles and helps them relax and in the second instance, the scs feels more like a buzzing that is much more internal and more gentle (for me.) It may be totally different for you.

    BUT, you tell ME what the downside is besides the hassle and inconvience???? Yes, there are dangers with any surgical procedure. But on the other hand, you have a rare opportunity to experience a therapy on a trial basis that just MIGHT be a game-changer for you and the people who love you. How great is that? You might hate it. It might not work at all! But at least you will have given it a try. My neurosurgeon, who I cannot name but his is one of the best reputations in the country according to numerous accounts and websites, suggested that in many cases the use of a spinal cord stimulator could be more often used INSTEAD of more invasive back surgery when the issue is pain rather than measurable instability and might be much more effective and much less invasive and less expensive compared to back surgery. My dad has lived happily with a pacemaker for nearly 20 years. Similar therapy in that he has a generator placed under his skin with leads to his heart. Sometimes I wish I could disconnect it for him(LOL) !!!!!!

    The trial helped me. I did keep a daily pain journal and if it would make you feel any better, I don't mind making the day-by-day comments available to you. It will take me the time to type it up but if it will help you decide, I will be glad to do it. Good luck. Keep us in the "loop." Kathy PS. I will be keeping a daily accounting of my actual implant beginning August 1st.

  • Thank you so much Kathy! If day-by-day comments are not too much to do, then I would be super appreciative to be able to read them. There is no such thing as too much info, as far as I am concerned. I am a big time researcher on everything, but getting info like that, directly from someone that has/is going through it, is priceless.

    I do totally agree about just the hassle and inconvenience. I am for sure going to give the trial a go, if the doc gives me the go ahead. I have nothing to lose but a little pain, possibly, which I already have; I can only gain from going ahead with a trial.

    One other concern, which you might be able to shed some light on... My pain is cervical, I do have arm pain, but a lot of neck pain. I have heard a lot of others say that the SCS mainly helps with radiculopathy pain, and not so much neck/back pain. When I have the arm pain, it is quite painful and irritating, but my neck pain is what is constant, all of the time no matter what. It would be awesome if it helps both, but I guess I need to take baby steps and take what I can get (although I would like to take big ole giant steps and feel alive again!!!) :-D

    Thanks again!
  • Another thing I thought about... How do you go about charging your battery? I see B., above, said twice a week for 2.5 hours, but do you have to be stationary to charge it?

    While I was doing some research online, I came across a blog and the individual on it said that if you let your battery die three times that it kills the battery and it will have to be replaced. This makes no sense to me??? I can totally see not letting the battery constantly run out of "juice," but I imagine that letting it die three times happens often, and that just doesn't sound appealing to have to have an additional surgery because of that. It could have easily been misinformation, considering I have only heard this from one individual in all of the research I have done. Just wanted to throw it out there to see if this is something others have been told.

    Thanks again and hope ya'll are having a pain free day!
  • The battery dieing three times is a true statement. I've only gotten close once and that was when we changed my programs and they consumed more power than normal. I got lucky and only had to put my charger on and start charging to recover. I was so low that my remote wouldn't communicate with my IPG. If you let it run completely dry, your rep has to do a reset. Letting it run dry damages the IPG, so you'll have to charge more often once you do it. You can charge the battery as often as you like. If I wanted I could probably spread my charging sessions out every night and spend maybe 45-60 minutes a day charging.

    Are you scared yet? Don't be. Its just something that you have to manage. Trust me, you won't let this happen. The stimulator is part of you and you're not going to let that happen. I have a Medtronic SCS. The charger fits into a belt like device that I put around my waist. I can walk around the house and do light tasks while charging. I normally just sit down and watch TV for a couple of hours. If my eyes weren't so bad, I'd probably read a book. Charging is me time and I pretty much do what I want during that time.

  • Well, that is good info to know, thanks so much.

    No, not scared... Just want all the info I can get so I can make the best decision possible. I don't want any surprises :-) although every day seems to be a surprise for me, at times.

    That makes total sense about not draining your battery. And you are very right, it is a part of you and I would assume I wouldn't let that happen. I guess if I can always remember to make sure my cell phone is charged (godforbid my battery dies and I lose access to the internet and texting LOL :-D) then I sure better remember to charge myself!

    Thanks again!
  • It gives new meaning to "Charging my battery".


    "I feel run down."

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,852
    but have had plenty of experiences with Tens units. I do enjoy more Tens unit, but it does fall somewhat short in terms of overall pain management. While I am using the Tens unit, any section that I am adhering it to, feels much better and I generally get relief for up to 36 hours.

    There are plenty of SCS members out here, I would single out "C" chagland , since is one of the more experienced SCS patients. From what I know about SCS (and I admit its little), is that you should get longer term relief from it and its not just a quick fix.

    Good luck
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thanks for the input, Ron! I will definitely have to hit "C" chagland up. I have heard mixed feelings on the SCS, but that goes for just about everything, you hear the good, bad, and ugly.

    Right now I just want as much knowledge as possible, so I am prepared for my consult next week. So far, I have received wonderful info from many members here who have an SCS. It has been very helpful.

    It is awesome that I can have a trial before the permanent implant, to see if it will help reduce pain levels. It's too bad they didn't offer a trial with ACDF... LOL that would be pretty great, huh. :-D

    Take care all!
  • Im 2 weeks off my trial and waiting for a surgeon (more on that elsewhere), I had/have similar concerns regarding location of pain and the stim. I have muscle pain/spasms from cervical injury. Thankful the shooting pain stopped after injections. Three years of trigger point injections and Im just in agony 24/7. I live on a heating pad and my tens unit. So finally this PM asked me about the SCS. The last day of my trial was the best. My muscles (boulders in the shoulder) seemed better than they had in 5 years. So, I was told that it will help. At this point nothing else is and I just want a life away from an electrical socket for the heating pad. Keep asking questions. I found some good info on webmd.com. We will stay in touch through the process. There are a few of us here about to proceed. I need a surgeon?
  • Im 2 weeks off my trial and waiting for a surgeon (more on that elsewhere), I had/have similar concerns regarding location of pain and the stim. I have muscle pain/spasms from cervical injury. Thankful the shooting pain stopped after injections. Three years of trigger point injections and Im just in agony 24/7. I live on a heating pad and my tens unit. So finally this PM asked me about the SCS. The last day of my trial was the best. My muscles (boulders in the shoulder) seemed better than they had in 5 years. So, I was told that it will help. At this point nothing else is and I just want a life away from an electrical socket for the heating pad. Keep asking questions. I found some good info on webmd.com. We will stay in touch through the process. There are a few of us here about to proceed. I need a surgeon?
  • I have created a new "topic" so anyone who is interested can read my pain journal. Sorry it took a few days. It is candid but honest. I just want it to help you and anyone else going through this.
  • MelWMMelW Posts: 427
    edited 07/19/2012 - 3:00 PM
    Thank you Kathy!!! You rock! :-D I will check it out, for sure.

    Terri - I know what you mean when you say "boulders in the shoulders," it is awful. I have areas that are just one big, constant spasm. Last time I saw the PM he said "did you know this muscle is in a constant spasm?," well no sh!t Sherlock!!! LOL, I feel that pain every darn day. He is an awesome doc, but he still has a few "no sh!t" moments. Anyhow, yes, please keep me updated on your SCS journey. I want all the info I can get. I wish you luck!

  • Mel, I am on my second SCS (Boston Scientific) and mine was placed to aid with cervical pain as well. I had bad pain in both arms and hands as well as around my shoulder blades and the center of my upper back. In all honesty, I will say that I get more relief in my arms than I do in my actual neck/back so it isn't 100%. But when my first unit failed, I realized just how much it was helping me and chose to go through it all again (first one stopped working after 12 months and it was an engineering thing, not the actual unit. The wire that connected the battery to the paddle was cut by rubbing against the material they used to anchor it.).
    As far as the charging goes, your remote will give you plenty of warning when your battery needs to be charged. Mine has "bars" for battery strength (3 bars) and when I see it go to 2 bars, I always go ahead and recharge. I don't run a high stimulation because I am very sensitive and not only get stimulation in my arms, but also in my legs and feet and if set too high, I can't do anything with my arms or legs. I run mine 24/7 and the only time I turn it off is when I am exercising (kickboxing) because it stimulates too much. I only have to charge my battery about every 3 weeks and it takes around 4-5 hours. I usually charge when I'm in bed watching tv or reading.
    I think it is definitely worth trying it out. I did have pain the first two days after my trial began and was miserable, but the 3rd day was so much better. And my ability to sleep came back! I didn't realize how much I missed sleeping soundly. That was enough to convince me to get the stimulator.
  • Be honest please, are you getting ANY relief around shoulders and upper back? Did you or do you have the muscle pain and tightness? Thank God my arm pain is gone. I don't expect near 100%, BUT if it cant shoot what I'm aiming for....thats important. I'm sure the neuro will be honest, your input is very helful.
  • kathyykkathyy Posts: 580
    edited 07/24/2012 - 1:42 PM
    My goodness, Honeysmom! Good for you! Kickboxing!!! Sounds like you aren't giving in to the pain! I try to explain to other people why I choose to do my own house cleaning and still try to work in my garden! No matter how bad, I just have the sense that I can't let the pain, win!
  • I just got back from my consultation with the pain doc! :-D For once, I think I smiled all of the way home! He said he thinks I would greatly benefit from a SCS. I have my psych eval on 8/9/12, then he is going to set me up for the trial. He uses either Medtronic or Boston Scientific Precision Plus, which he said he would prefer the BS Precision Plus for me. I should have one of the RN reps calling me soon to talk to me and see if I have any questions.

    He also said they are using SCS's for depression, which I never knew, but it makes sense.

    I am super excited to do the trial! I will keep ya'll posted! I am really hoping it helps, but am also not putting all my eggs in one basket. If it helps, it'll be awesome, but if not then at least I tried one more resource to try to reduce my pain.
  • Now you'll get an idea of this therapy.....how it feels, if it helps. My doc says they look for 2 things. 1) at least a 50% reduction in pain and 2) a decrease in pain medication. It may help you to keep a journal as I did. As I await final surgery, it helps encourage me since I'm right back in the old pain cycle without it. I keep thinking to myself...did it really help me that much? And I am reassured that it wasn't just a dream. Remember, my trial was mid June. Seems like a long time ago.
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