Spinal Cord Stimulation – I’m Going to Try It

Spinal Cord Stimulation – I’m Going to Try It

Editor’s Note: Phil Meade is going to have spinal cord stimulation treatment for his chronic pain. He has agreed to share some of his experiences.

Several weeks ago, I received a phone call from an old friend and colleague who is now retired and living in St. George, Utah.

Phil Meade wanted to know what I knew about spinal cord stimulation. (Several years ago I worked as a communications consultant for Boston Scientific’s Neuromodulation division and had some knowledge about SCS).

I told him what little I knew and then I asked him if he’d be comfortable sharing his story as he goes through the process of deciding and then having the surgery.

He had been seeing a doctor for chronic back pain. He had tried some medication (Gabapentin which gave him relief but had some nasty side effects and Lyrica which didn’t do anything to relieve the pain). Also he had been receiving spinal injections which would help for a while.

“But over time, I was just getting less and less relief.”

Meade loves to walk the golf course and enjoys exercise.

He was frustrated that his pain wouldn’t let him golf as he likes or do much of anything else. He noted he recently spent about an hour in a shopping mall and the standing and the walk made him “just miserable”.

“If I wanted to live a sedentary life, I probably would be o.k.,” said Meade. “But I like to be active.”

So his doctor suggested spinal cord stimulation, which about 400,000 persons have experienced. SCS is also known as nerve stimulation, and involves having a small pulse generator placed in the body which produces electrical signals to mask the perception of pain traveling from the painful area to the brain.

There are a lot of seniors in St. George and seniors often will share their opinions, whether you ask them or not. One day at a local coffee shop, he found himself in a conversation about enduring pain and the concept of spinal cord stimulation – and the reviews were mixed.

“A woman I was speaking with said it was horrible, while another guy said it was great.” He has yet to find someone neutral about the procedure.

What appeals to him is that there is a screening test period, and he can “try it out” for a week.

Patients undergo a psychological evaluation to see if they are good candidates. One of the questions they asked Meade, “Are you a maverick or a rule follower?”

Meade pointed out he was raised by a doctor who was a stickler for following the rules. Meade does the same.

His decision to go ahead with the surgery came about in an interesting way. He wanted a second opinion, so he went to talk with both a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic spinal surgeon.

“The second opinion actually cleared some things up for me,” Meade told us. “I’m a bit fussy and have a need for detail, and I actually left with more understanding and a higher confidence level that I was doing the right thing after speaking with the two spinal specialists.”

Meade will have his trial stimulator put on June 15th. We’ll circle back to him and see how it went and when or if he decides to have the permanent implant.

Stay Tuned.

Editor’s Note–If you have had spinal cord stimulation surgery, and would like to share your experiences, let us know by emailing us:  editor@nationalpainreport.com

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Sue-Ellen Deacon at 2:04 am

    I had the spinal stim implant in October 2014. It certainly gives me relief from my chronic nerve pain in my ankle, however I had an issue immediately after as they were not sure if I had an infection or my body was rejecting it. I was hospitalised for several days and the on anti-biotics for weeks and have stabilised. I have had several trips back for the programs to be changed and I do have some issue with the battery overheating if I don’t turn the device off for some time during the day. I am now on a cycle for 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off. This has assisted me. I would recommend it. Good Luck.

  2. Thomas Bresnahan at 8:06 pm

    I have Adhesive Arachnoiditis, clumping of the nerves in the spinal cord caused by an epidural steroid injection. I’ve tried a trial of the St Jude device, it didn’t work for me. This was a few years ago. I later meet with Dr Robert Levy, a neurosurgeon who is a leader in neuro modulation. He said that SCS was not very effective for those with Arachnoiditis. I’ve learned that the newer SCS models that should be out now or will be out shortly use “burst” signals vs a steady signal. They are also at a higher frequency. I hope this works well for you and can’t wait to hear your results! Good Luck!

  3. jean Kirschenheiter at 7:07 am

    I too have considered the spinal cord simulator but have procrastinated about it being so unsure and scared. I suffer with spinal stenosis and bulging discs for years. I would surely like to follow your journey and how it made your life much better for you.

  4. marty at 3:44 am

    I will be following this. It’s pretty much my only option left so I have been told but so many I have talked to find it useless. They say the week test one worked good and then after getting it replaced with the implant it didn’t seem to do much anymore. So I will be waiting to see how it is going for you