Life After Spinal Cord Stimulation

Life After Spinal Cord Stimulation

Chronic pain plagues over 20% of American adults, and if you’re one of them, you know how frustrating it can be to find relief. Every aspect of your life seems to change when you live with constant pain, jeopardizing your job, health, and relationships.

Fortunately, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) may be a viable solution. This surgically implanted device sends low-voltage currents to your spinal cord to block pain signals from your nerves. Although not everyone is an ideal candidate for SCS, those who qualify often achieve significant pain relief. 

Our pain management specialists at Regency Pain & Therapy Institute in Mansfield, Texas, have extensive experience with SCS and can help you determine if it’s a good option for you. However, before you consider SCS treatment, it’s a good idea to explore how your life will look after you get the device implanted. Here’s a peek at what you can expect.

Immediately after SCS

SCS isn’t a first-line treatment; we only recommend it after more conservative measures have failed. So, if you’ve arrived at this point, you’re probably pretty excited about facing life with less pain from nerve damage, failed surgery, phantom limb syndrome, chronic regional pain syndrome, or other painful conditions.

However, SCS requires surgery, and you’ll have to recover before you feel the full effects of the nifty new device in your hip and back. You must keep your activities gentle and slow as you heal from surgery. We encourage you to walk, march lightly, and even take the stairs, but avoid bending, twisting, stretching, and lifting for a while.

The first few months after SCS

Since everyone recovers at different paces, we can’t give you a precise rehabilitation timeline, but most people can begin performing general conditioning exercises about two weeks after surgery and build up their legs. We can also show you some effective upper-body exercises you can do safely while protecting your spine.

Around the two-month mark, you can add cardiovascular exercises to your routine. Water activities are great for conditioning without impact if you can access a pool. Depending on your job, you may already be back at work by this point; you may need more time off if you have a physically demanding job.

Again, everyone is different, and you may progress faster or slower. Our team monitors you closely and lets you know when you’re ready for the next level.

Does SCS work?

The burning question in every patient’s mind is: Does SCS work? The short answer is, Yes, but not for everybody.

Studies show that about 50%-60% of people who use low-frequency SCS achieve significant pain relief (at least 50% improvement), and over 80% have success with high-frequency SCS therapy. 

In addition to your unique anatomy and response to treatment, you may experience device-related problems, discomfort from the electrical stimulation, pressure issues when scuba diving, electromagnetic interference when undergoing an MRI, and other such issues. 

However, these problems are rare, and most people who are good candidates for SCS and undergo a successful trial period report positive outcomes. 

Consider the restrictions

After receiving an SCS implant, following a few common-sense precautionary rules can keep your device running smoothly and keep you safe during everyday activities. 

Turn off your device when you drive a car or operate other heavy machinery because the electrical stimulation may distract you.

Turn off your device when you undergo X-rays and CT scans. Although the SCS device shouldn’t interfere with these tests when powered down, it will likely interfere with an MRI, so make sure to disclose your SCS device to doctors and technicians.

Your SCS device includes a magnet that can scramble the information on your credit cards and computer drives, so keep them at a distance.

You can participate in many sports and physical activities, but our team can give you a specific list of any off-limits movements, as some may dislodge the electrical leads in your spine.

To learn more about life after SCS, schedule an appointment to talk with our team by calling our friendly staff at 817-345-6225. 

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