Oh, the pain of de-feet! I've always had such a hard time explaining to others' about the foot pain. My feet ache constantly, and I have the added bonus of burning on the bottoms. The bottoms of my feet are the only place I have that burning sensation. Everywhere else is an aching and/or cramping sensation. It's so hard to explain to someone how you feel the worst cramp of your life in your calf or butt, but the muscle is pliable and soft.
Before my SCS, they tried a TENS unit during PT but it never went any further than that because it wasn't effective. Every time the therapist turned the settings up to get the stimulation deep enough, the muscles would spasm and cause even more pain. I also noticed it made my skin itch, which seemed strange. I don't know if that's normal or just one of my idiosyncrasies.
Age is definitely a factor with the surgery, especially if you're like me and have to have the laminotomy, but age isn't everything! I'm 36, so I'm "young" by my doctor's standards. When I go to PT, I share the pool with a lovely lady who also has the SCS implant, and she's 77! She puts me to shame on a regular basis with the amount of things she can do! She's been one of those unexpected blessings in life. If a stimulator or anything else seems like something worth exploring, don't limit yourself based solely on your age.
The implant itself doesn't bother me that much. In fact, I rarely even feel it, because it's not that big. According to the documentation I have, my implant is 2.1 inches wide, 2.1 inches tall, and .4 inch thick. It's located in my left side, toward the front of the "love handle" area. I'm a lefty, so it's on the left to make it easier for me to use the remote control. I admit, I was a bit miserable after the surgery because I usually sleep on my back or my left side. It took about 8 weeks of healing time before I could lay on either incision, but now it's fine.
My paddle covers the vertebral spaces at T7 and T8. But, it's not just the technicality of where the paddle sits; there's also a huge portion of the control that comes from the ability of the rep to program the implant. Regardless of which brand implant you get, if you get a bum programmer, you're sunk! I lucked out and got an excellent rep that will meet with me as many times as I call, to get the programming just right. Right now, I have 3 program groups and don't anticipate needing any more programming for quite some time.
I have one group of programs I use primarily when I'm up and moving around. Within the group I have: program 1, which covers from my waist to the bottom of my buttocks; program 2, which covers from the mid-buttock through both of my knees; program 3, which covers both legs from my knees to my ankles; and program 4, which covers both feet. With that group, if my back/hips/buttocks aren't bothering me, I can turn the stimulation down/off and not feel the tingles in that area. At the same time, if my feet are absolutely throbbing, I can turn up the intensity as much as I want, without having my entire body 'light up,' for lack of a better description.
I have a second group that I use primarily when I'm laying down or sleeping. Within that group I have: program 1, which covers my waist to buttocks; program 2 that covers my left leg, from my mid-hip to my foot; and program 3 that covers my right leg, from mid-hip to my foot. That allows me to turn my low back up and down, while controlling my left and right legs independently of each other. My rep created that program because I found that when I laid down, I tended to have greater stimulation on the side I wasn't laying on. We have no idea why, but in this program group, I can lay one side and balance out the other.
And finally, I have a third group that I use primarily when I'm sitting in my chair. That group has: program 1, which covers my waist through to the bottom of my feet, much like a pair of panty hose; and program 2, which covers from my waist UP into my shoulder blades and wraps around to my underarms. That program was actually an accidental discovery, but I opted to keep it because on the rare occasion, I do get pain between my shoulder blades while I'm sitting at the computer. My remote control holds 25 groups, so there is plenty of room, even for rarely used programs.
I supposed I've babbled on enough for now. I was very nervous in the beginning, but I've had such excellent results, it's hard not to talk about it! I think if I would have only had 50% of the results, it would have been worth it to me. Right now, my biggest problem is the patience it takes to let my body recover and I continue to get scolded at my doctors appointments, for taking on too much, too soon. I never expected I'd receive that kind of reprimand ever again, so I just smile and take my wallops.