Spinal Cord Stimulator Permanent Restrictions – Why You Need To Know

Are you considering a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) for chronic pain management? If so, it’s crucial to understand the permanent restrictions associated with this device. At Texas Spine and Pain, we are dedicated to helping our patients manage their pain effectively while providing comprehensive information about living with a spinal stimulator. In this blog, we will explore the permanent restrictions, potential complications, and ways to maintain an active lifestyle with an SCS.

Understanding Spinal Cord Stimulators

What Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

A spinal stimulator is a device implanted in the body to manage chronic pain. It works by sending electrical impulses to the spinal cord, which interfere with the pain signals traveling to the brain. This can significantly reduce the sensation of pain in patients with chronic conditions such as:

  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Chronic leg or back pain

How Long Does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Last?

The lifespan of a spinal cord stimulator varies depending on the type of device and the battery. Rechargeable devices can last between 5 to 10 years, while non-rechargeable devices typically last around 2 to 5 years. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider are essential to ensure the device is functioning correctly and to determine when a replacement might be needed.

Permanent Restrictions with a Spinal Cord Stimulator

Why Are There Restrictions?

The permanent restrictions associated with a spinal cord are primarily due to the delicate nature of the implanted device and the need to avoid activities that could dislodge or damage it. Understanding these restrictions is vital for maintaining the effectiveness of the device and preventing complications.

Activity Limitations

Living with a spinal cord stimulator requires certain activity modifications to avoid potential issues. Some of the common restrictions include:

  • Avoiding Heavy Lifting: Lifting heavy objects can strain the area where the device is implanted and potentially dislodge the leads.
  • Limited Bending and Twisting: Excessive bending or twisting motions can also affect the placement of the device and leads.
  • Caution with High-Impact Activities: Activities like running, jumping, or contact sports should be avoided to prevent damage to the device.

Medical Procedures and Devices

Certain medical procedures and devices can interfere with the function of a spinal cord stimulator. It’s essential to inform healthcare providers about the presence of an SCS before undergoing any medical treatments. Some considerations include:

  • MRI Scans: Most spinal cord stimulators are not compatible with MRI machines, as the magnetic fields can interfere with the device. Always check with your provider for alternatives.
  • Diathermy Treatments: These high-frequency electrical treatments can damage the spinal cord and should be avoided.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Stimulator Rejection

Although rare, some patients may experience symptoms of spinal cord stimulator rejection, which can include:

  • Increased Pain: A sudden increase in pain at the implant site or the area of stimulation.
  • Infection Signs: Redness, swelling, or discharge at the implant site.
  • Device Malfunction: Unusual sensations, such as shocks or loss of stimulation.

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and management.

Maintaining an Active Lifestyle

Safe Exercises for Patients with Spinal Cord Stimulators

While there are restrictions, it is still possible to maintain an active lifestyle with a spinal cord stimulator. Incorporating low-impact exercises can help improve overall health without risking the device. Some safe exercises include:

  • Walking: A low-impact activity that can help maintain cardiovascular health.
  • Swimming: A gentle way to exercise without putting strain on the spine.
  • Stationary Biking: Provides a cardiovascular workout with minimal impact.

Thoracic Back Pain Exercises

For those experiencing thoracic back pain, specific exercises can help alleviate discomfort without compromising the spinal stimulator. Some recommended exercises include:

  • Seated Thoracic Extensions: Sit in a chair with your hands behind your head and gently arch your back, looking up towards the ceiling. This helps to stretch and mobilize the thoracic spine.
  • Cat-Cow Stretch: On your hands and knees, alternate between arching your back (cat) and dipping it towards the floor (cow). This helps to increase flexibility and relieve tension in the thoracic spine.
  • Thoracic Rotation Stretch: Sit or stand with your arms out to the sides, and gently rotate your torso to the left and right. This helps to improve thoracic spine mobility.

Success Rate of Spinal Cord Stimulators

What Is the Success Rate of a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

The success rate of spinal cord stimulators can vary depending on the condition being treated and the patient’s overall health. Generally, SCS devices have a high success rate in providing pain relief, with studies showing that approximately 50-70% of patients experience significant pain reduction. Factors influencing success include proper patient selection, precise device placement, and adherence to postoperative care instructions.

Personalized Care at Texas Spine and Pain

Comprehensive Evaluation and Consultation

At Texas Spine and Pain, we begin with a thorough evaluation to determine if a spinal cord stimulator is the right option for you. This includes detailed medical history, imaging studies, and discussions about your pain and treatment goals.

Expert Implantation and Follow-Up

Our experienced team of specialists ensures precise implantation of the spinal cord stimulator and provides comprehensive follow-up care to monitor your progress and address any concerns.

Education and Support

We believe in empowering our patients with knowledge about their condition and treatment. Our team provides education on living with a spinal cord stimulator, including activity modifications, symptom monitoring, and safe exercise recommendations.

Ongoing Pain Management

Chronic pain management is an ongoing process. We offer a range of complementary treatments and therapies to support your pain management journey, including physical therapy, medication management, and psychological support.

Real Patient Experiences

Case Study: Success with Spinal Cord Stimulator

Jane, a patient at Texas Spine and Pain, had been suffering from chronic leg pain due to failed back surgery syndrome. After thorough evaluation and consultation, she opted for a spinal cord stimulator. Following the procedure, Jane experienced significant pain relief and improved her quality of life. By adhering to the recommended restrictions and incorporating safe exercises into her routine, Jane has been able to maintain an active lifestyle.

Case Study: Managing Complications

John, another patient, experienced symptoms of spinal cord stimulator rejection a few months after implantation. Prompt evaluation and intervention by our team at Texas Spine and Pain identified an infection at the implant site. With appropriate treatment and adjustments to his care plan, John was able to continue benefiting from his spinal cord stimulator with minimal disruption to his daily life.


Understanding the permanent restrictions associated with a spinal cord stimulator is essential for maintaining its effectiveness and ensuring a successful outcome. At Texas Spine and Pain, we are committed to providing comprehensive care and support for our patients, helping them manage their chronic pain and improve their quality of life. If you are considering a spinal cord stimulator or need guidance on living with one, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized medical guidance.

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