Shocking away back pain

May 3, 2010

Now, a new surgical option is showing promising results.

A fall left Nancy Bruce in terrible pain.

"It was just unbelievable how bad it was," said Bruce.

Nancy was desperate for effective pain management.

"I had to lay down in bed all the time or on the couch because I couldn't sit," said Bruce.

When drugs and traditional therapies weren't enough, Nancy tried spinal cord stimulation. Doctor Jerry Lewis uses it to jam the pain signal.

"The spinal cord is actually a processor, and so it decreases the amount of pain transmission that gets through to the brain," said Lewis, a pain medicine specialist.

A tiny wire was inserted in the epidural space of Nancy's spinal column. She can deliver electrical pulses via a remote control in her spine. It transforms her pain into a less intense, almost tingly sensation. She noticed a difference right away.

"All of a sudden, I had my life back. I mean, I could actually do things. I could sit for more than 30 minutes," said Bruce.

Each patient goes through a trial period prior to permanent implantation, and according to doctor Lewis, 85% of trial patients choose to move forward and get the implant. For Nancy, moving forward is going to require a lot of sitting still.

"I'm studying. I'm getting back to my CPA preparation, and at the end of this month, I take the CPA exam," said Bruce.

It all adds up to a pain-free, pill-free solution to back pain.

The risks of spinal cord stimulation are similar to those of any other surgery. Among them: infection, headache and allergic reaction.

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