Life With a Spinal Cord Stimulator

Millions of Americans spend their days trying to find the best treatment option for their chronic pain, and many have found relief in the form of a spinal cord stimulator. If you’re contemplating turning to a spinal cord stimulator to address your pain, there are a few things you should know about life with such a device.

At Comprehensive Pain Management, Drs. Do Chan and Boris Shwartzman head up a team of pain management specialists that offers a wide range of treatment options for chronic pain. If you’ve exhausted many of them, a spinal cord stimulator may be the solution you’ve been looking for.

Here’s a look at what life is like with a spinal cord stimulator.

Spinal cord stimulator at a glance

If you’re unfamiliar with a spinal cord stimulator, let’s take a moment to quickly review this innovative approach to managing chronic pain. 

Most people turn to a spinal cord stimulator after exhausting all of their nonsurgical treatment options, such as medications, physical therapy, and alternative therapies. As well, we may recommend a spinal cord stimulator to treat pain that still persists postsurgically.

The stimulator relies on electrodes, which we place in your epidural space, and a generator, which we place under your skin around your abdomen or buttocks. Once in position, the stimulator generates electrical impulses that disrupt the pain signaling between your spinal cord and your brain.

To implant the spinal cord stimulator, we need to go through two procedures. The first is a trial run to ensure we’ve targeted the right area, and if it’s successful in relieving your pain, we implant the electrodes and battery pack in the second procedure.

We perform these procedures on an outpatient basis, which means you’re free to return home afterward. But we do recommend that you take it easy for a few days until we give you the greenlight to return to your normal activities

Life with a spinal cord stimulator

Once your life returns to normal after we implant your spinal cord stimulator, there are a few things you need to consider.

Water and your stimulator

Many of our patients ask about showering, bathing, or swimming with a spinal cord stimulator. Once your incisions have healed, you may partake in all of these activities. Please note that you cannot get your trial stimulator wet.

Diagnostic imaging

If you’re concerned about future diagnostic imaging, X-rays and CT scans can be done with your spinal cord stimulator in place, as long as it’s not powered. When it comes to an MRI, however, not all devices are compatible with this type of imaging. Rest assured, we’ll let you know if you have any limitations when it comes to advanced imaging.

Traveling with a spinal cord stimulator

If you fly, please note that your stimulator is likely to be registered by security, which is why we supply you with a card. As for going through the screening process, we recommend that you power down your stimulator before being scanned.

Operating machinery or driving

When it comes to driving or operating machinery, you’re free to do so as long as you power down your stimulator.

Using your equipment

Most stimulators come with chargers and remote controls, so you’ll need to educate yourself on this equipment. Here again, we provide you with all of the information you need in advance, and we’re here to answer any questions along the way.

If you have more questions about life with a spinal cord stimulator, please contact one of our offices in Attleboro or Franklin, Massachusetts, or South Kingstown or Warwick, Rhode Island. To find the phone number for the office closest to you, click here

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