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How Angie Experienced Relief with a Spinal Cord Stimulator

Angie’s Back Injury

For 15 years, Angie has been on the clinical side of healthcare. Day in and day out, she’d work in the operating rooms and treatment rooms, until one day when she was helping a doctor with a heavier patient.

As he was falling off the table, she scooped down to help him, and all of a sudden, felt a *pop.* An intense pain shot down her right leg, and immediately, she knew something didn’t feel right.

As soon as she was able to, she found a pain care clinic where she started going through a series of injections, as she hoped and prayed that she’d get the relief she needed. But one morning soon after, she woke up and felt completely paralyzed in her right leg.

She was sent to the hospital for emergency surgery, which left her in more pain when she woke up than before the surgery. Weeks later, she started noticing random foot drops as she walked, causing her to trip over herself and have frequent falls.

Related: Treating Your Chronic Back Pain with a Spinal Cord Stimulator

One, Two, Three, Four Surgeries Later…

She started seeing a different neurosurgeon in the hopes that a different approach would help cure her back pain for good. He recommended a second surgery, a discectomy laminectomy, but yet again, coming out of surgery, her intense pain remained, even a year later.

Her surgeon recommended a third surgery– a disc removal– without putting anything else in its place. A few weeks after it was complete, Angie’s vertebra collapsed on top of the L5 nerve root, leaving her in even worse pain than she ever thought she could have.

Yet her surgeon, again, recommended a fourth surgery for Angie: a fusion. “He said once that’s done, then it’ll totally fix the problem, will relieve the pressure on that nerve, and you’ll be healed,” Angie explained.

But still, she was still left in excruciating pain and with a slew of medications including opiod-based medications, Dilaudid, and medical patches.

Her memory started getting worse from her medications, and she started coming to the cold realization that she might end up on disability at 30 years old. She had a handicap bar on her bed, and a bar in the shower because she couldn’t lift her right leg high enough to get over the tub.n“Why would I ever want to get any older if I’m like this now?” she’d thought to herself. “By the time I hit 40,  50, 65 years old, I’m going to be completely disabled.”

For many back pain patients like Angie, on top of the surgeries, the medications, the constant alterations to try to reduce the pain, and the sharp nerve pains make them feel like they’re going a little crazy! While one minute, the pain feels as intense as ever, the next, they won’t feel anything at all, oscillating between the two throughout the day.

She realized she’d had enough surgery. There had to be another way. And that’s when Advanced Pain Care came into the mix.

Angie’s Advanced Pain Care Journey

Angie started consulting with Advanced Pain Care during her second surgery, but her neurosurgeon insisted that surgery was the best solution. But after four failed attempts and a first discussion with Dr. Ryan Michaud, she got introduced to a newer, less invasive method to minimize the pain: a spinal cord stimulator.

Patients exploring the spinal cord stimulator option typically start it on a 3 to 7-day trial. Having worked in medical, Angie was familiar with a TENS unit, which tends to leave patients with a constant prickly, tingly feeling.

But the more Dr. Michaud explained the spinal cord stimulator’s usage, and outlined the 3-day trial, encouraging her to keep doing everything as normal other than that, the more willing she was to try it. And as soon as she knew it, she was in the comfort of Advanced Pain Care’s clinic, setting her head down to prepare for the 3-day trial.

“I woke up, and for the first time in six years, I didn’t have pain in that leg,” Angie remembers. “That night, it was the first time I was able to walk around the block without severe pain. Even before the 3 days were up, I was calling the office asking how soon they could put in the permanent stimulator.”

About the Spinal Cord Stimulator

Many chronic pain patients don’t have much knowledge about the spinal cord stimulator. A stimulator placed inside your body, that takes away pain without you even feeling it’s there?!

A spinal cord stimulator is also called an SCS or a neurostimulator. It’s a small device implanted slightly under the skin, sending tiny electrical currents to your spinal cord to stimulate the area where you’re feeling the pain, masking or modifying the pain signals in that area before they reach the brain.

For many patients the spinal cord stimulator can help them treat their chronic pain, whether it’s:

  • Diabetic neuropathy or other nerve-related conditions
  • Complex regional pain syndrome, arachnoiditis, peripheral vascular disease, and other pain-related syndromes and diseases
  • Failed back surgery
  • Angina and other heart pain
  • And other general nerve damage pain

The Spinal Cord Stimulator Process

  1. Consultation: Before exploring the spinal cord stimulation, you’ll discuss your condition or pain with one of your pain or neurosurgery specialists at Advanced Pain Care.
  2. Trial: To try out your spinal cord stimulator before the implantation, Advanced Pain Care offers a trial, so you can get a feel for the machine and how it can offer you pain relief. This will give you the opportunity to see how it manages your pain day-to-day, and how to control the stimulation via your remote.
  3. Implantation: As an outpatient surgery, the spinal cord surgery will allow you to leave the clinic as soon as your anesthesia wears off! Taking care of the incision area and your body movements 2-4 weeks after the surgery, you’ll then take a recovery period of light activities between 6-8 weeks after the surgery. You’ll also have a few follow-ups with your physician to review your stimulator’s pulse width, amplitude, and your threshold. Even if the surgery doesn’t fit your healing journey (though 9 out of 10 patients find success without relying on medications!), the surgery is completely reversible if needed.

Related: Spinal Cord Stimulator: What You Need to Know

Angie’s Life Today

Angie, just like other spinal cord stimulator patients, now has total control over treating her own pain. If she wanted, she can turn it completely off with her remote– and will even do so every once in a while… just to see how her pain compares. If she’s having a bad day, she’ll turn her setting from “silent” to “tingles,” for a more direct and intense pain management.

Most importantly, Angie is back to being able to do everything she loves pain-and med-free, including spending time with her daughter and working for Advanced Pain Care’s purchasing department!

Curious about the spinal cord stimulator? Find an Advanced Pain Care location near you so the pain can stop here.