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Living with a Spinal Cord Stimulator: A Guide to Managing Chronic Pain


Living with a Spinal Cord Stimulator: A Guide to Managing Chronic Pain

By Edward Rubin, MD


For many patients grappling with chronic pain, especially those who have not found relief through conventional treatments, a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) can be a life-changing solution. As a pain management specialist, I have seen firsthand the positive impact that spinal cord stimulation can have on individuals who suffer from various chronic pain conditions. Here’s an essential guide to understanding what it means to live with a spinal cord stimulator and how it can help manage chronic pain effectively.

What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator is a device implanted under the skin that sends low levels of electrical stimulation directly to the spinal cord. These electrical impulses interfere with the nerve signals that communicate pain to the brain, helping to reduce the perception of pain. The device includes a small pulse generator and leads that are positioned near the spinal cord. The intensity and area of stimulation can be controlled by the patient, allowing for personalized pain management.

The Implantation Process

The process of getting a spinal cord stimulator typically involves two stages. First, a trial period is conducted where a temporary device is implanted to determine if the stimulation effectively reduces the patient’s pain. If the trial is successful, a permanent device is then surgically implanted. The implantation is minimally invasive, and most patients return home the same day or the following day.

Life with a Spinal Cord Stimulator

Living with an SCS device requires some adjustments, but many find these manageable compared to the benefit of significant pain reduction. Patients can control their pain by adjusting the settings on a remote control that communicates with the stimulator. Regular follow-up visits are necessary to fine-tune the device settings and ensure optimal pain relief.

Benefits and Considerations

The primary benefit of a spinal cord stimulator is the substantial reduction of pain and the corresponding improvement in quality of life. It allows many patients to decrease their reliance on pain medications, including opioids, and to engage more actively in daily activities. However, it’s important to maintain realistic expectations; while SCS can significantly reduce pain, it may not eliminate it completely.

Activity Considerations

Patients with an SCS are advised to avoid activities that involve excessive twisting, bending, or stretching, especially soon after the implantation. Over time, you can gradually return to normal activities, guided by comfort and advice from your healthcare provider.


For those struggling with persistent pain, a spinal cord stimulator might represent a viable and effective treatment option. Discussing with a pain management specialist can help determine if this innovative therapy is right for you.

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