Spinal Cord Stimulation

By: Nicole Holt Email
By: Nicole Holt Email

Almost 80% of Americans will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. For some, their pain never goes away--it becomes a chronic problem instead. Now patients are finding relief from a "pacemaker for pain", a medical device that uses mild electrical pulses to mask pain.

“I couldn't do anything because it was a really sharp pain.” Sarah Whitfield is describing what she's felt in her lower back for the last four years. “I was taking care of mother. She had her leg amputated and did not trust anyone else to pick her up and move her all the time. I put her in her wheelchair, change her bed, and put her back in bed.”

After being the sole caregiver for her mother for sometime, Sarah's lower back began to give out. “My back popped one day. When I told my mother, she said I need to go to the chiropractor. I said no I am fine.”

But Sarah wasn't okay. In fact, her spinal cord became crooked, causing this pain. “We did an MRI on her lower back. So because she had Severe Disc Degenerative Disease, meaning the disc in her back had dried out, so she would have been able to have surgery.” Instead, Dr. Deborah Fisher, decided to try Spinal Cord Stimulation.

Spinal Cord Stimulation is a technology that’s been around for more than 15 years. While it has been around for so long, it’s improved tremendously over the last 5 years. Dr. Fisher says, “It’s not removing pain. Instead, it’s replacing that horrible burning, aching, stabbing pain, with a more pleasant tingling messaging feeling in the area of pain.”

Spinal Cord Stimulation is an FDA approved therapy that uses electrical pulses to block pain signals to the brain. Mild electrical pulses are sent along the spinal cord from an implanted battery or generator. It's believed that the electrical stimulation overrides the pain signals to the brain, replacing them with a light tingling sensation.

Here’s how it works: First a trial must be done. This outpatient procedure takes about 30 minutes. No cutting is done, just a quick epidural like shot in the spinal cord. “Once we know the leads are in the right spot, we tape everything down. There is no cutting involved in the trial. Basically go home for a week and test to see if it works or not for them.”

For Sarah, this treatment was the perfect solution. Next, it was time to put in the Spinal Cord Stimulator. “It’s more involved, but not invasive. Two cuts, one in the bottom and one in the middle of the back to bury the leads and put the battery in. Once that is done, it’s a simple procedure in the operating room. We put the patient to sleep. The leads are then put in, we wake them up, make sure it’s in the right spot."

Now Sarah is able to move around, just like she did years ago. She says, “If you've got pain out there try it, if not they can always take it out!”

For more information on spinal cord stimulation or to locate a pain
physician in your area, visit www.PowerOverYourPain.com..

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Douglas Location: Phx. AZ on Oct 19, 2009 at 08:49 AM
    I am going to have a trail with the Spinal Cord Stimulatar on Oct. 26 2009. I have read alot of stories abour it an talk to afew people that had it done and a few people that they know people that have had it. I would say at least 90 percent said it was good to great and said to have it done. What is the bad side to it if any?
  • by Charlee Location: Durant, OK on May 27, 2008 at 06:54 AM
    I too am grateful for technology, but sometimes feel we want a quick fix. Most of us with back pain did not just wake up one day with it. It was a long and slow process. I started getting Chiropractic adjustments almost 3 years ago and the change has been dramatic. I suffered daily with the pain and now I don't even think about it! Now that's progress!! I'm glad that I chose a natural and safe alternative to all the technology out there today! Thank you, Charlee
  • by Randi Sue Location: Atoka, OK 74525 on May 15, 2008 at 08:59 AM
    I have suffered from RSD(Reflex Sympathetic Dystorophy)in my feet and legs for 14 year, since I was 7. About three weeks ago, I recieved a Spinal Cord Stimulator and I am proud to report, it is working wonderful. I am out of my wheelchair and I have zero pain in my feet. I can't even remember the last time I felt this great. I would recommend it to anyone, but it is an uphill battle but it is accomplishable. I am very greatful to have recieved the stimulator. I am finally getting my life back.
  • by Anonymous Location: Denison on May 14, 2008 at 01:36 PM
    My sister had one implanted for her RSD(Reflex Sympathetic Dystorophy) and it caused more nerve damage than anything. It had to be removed. I would really do some research before I got one.
  • by Chuck Location: Durant/Denison on May 14, 2008 at 10:57 AM
    I am glad we have that technology in place. However people need to keep in mind that they will no longer be able to have MRI's in the future. The magnetic field can have bad effects on the system and themselves. You have to weigh the pro's and con's. thanks chuck
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