Life With a Spinal Cord Stimulator: What You Should Know

Life With a Spinal Cord Stimulator: What You Should Know

Life With a Spinal Cord Stimulator: What You Should Know

Your spinal cord is a long, thin bundle of nerves that runs from your brain down your back. It carries messages between your brain and the rest of your body. If you experience chronic pain, neuromodulation is a treatment option that your pain management doctor may recommend.

This emerging therapy involves the placement of a small device called a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) near your spinal cord. The SCS sends electrical signals to the nerves in your spinal cord, which blocks the pain signals from reaching your brain.

Read on to understand everything you need to know about SCS, including the different types of devices available, how the implantation procedure works, and what you can expect regarding post-operative care and recovery.

What Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

A Spinal Cord Stimulator consists of thin wires (electrodes) and a small battery pack (generator).  The electrodes are placed between the spinal cord and vertebrae in the epidural space.  The generator is placed under the skin usually near the buttocks or abdomen.  The stimulator sends electrical impulses to the spinal cord to block pain signals from reaching the brain. Spinal cord stimulators treat chronic pain that does not respond to other treatments, such as medication or physical therapy.

Here’s how the procedure works:

First, a small device called a trial stimulator is implanted in the epidural space. The trial stimulator tests whether the spinal cord stimulator will effectively relieve your pain. If the trial stimulator successfully reduces your pain, a permanent spinal cord stimulator can be implanted.

The permanent spinal cord stimulator is similar to the trial stimulator but is larger and has more features. The permanent stimulator can be programmed to deliver different levels of electrical stimulation, depending on your needs.

Patients with multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, and post-laminectomy syndrome are ideal candidates for this procedure.

Read more: Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Can Treat Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms.

Living With a Spinal Cord Stimulator: What You Should Know

1) MRIs and CT Scans Are Not Safe

If you have a spinal cord stimulator, you should may need to avoid having an MRI. The type of spinal cord stimulator that you have will determine MRI safety and compatibility.  The magnetic fields produced by MRIs can cause the electrical current in your spinal cord stimulator to become erratic, which can be very dangerous. If you need an MRI for some reason, you will need to have the stimulator turned off temporarily.

2) Security Checkpoints May Pose a Problem

If you have a spinal cord stimulator, going through security checkpoints can be a bit of a hassle. The metal detectors at airports may trigger the alarm because of the metal in the stimulator. You will need to undergo additional screening, which can take some time.

In addition, if you are going through a metal detector and it goes off, do not be alarmed. The stimulator will not set off the alarm. If you are going through a body scanner, you will need to inform the security personnel that you have a spinal cord stimulator. They may need to do a pat-down instead of using the machine.

3) Driving

Electrical impulses in an SCS can interfere with pacemakers and other electronic devices. If you have an SCS, you should not drive until your doctor tells you it is safe.

Contact Illinois Pain and Spine Institute to know more about spinal cord stimulation in Chicago. Our doctors and specialists will be more than happy to help you get started on your journey to living pain-free.