How Our Founder, Dr. Malone, Found Relief From Chronic Back Pain With a Spinal Stimulator
By Dr. Mark Malone
Before the pain, I had a thriving life.
A growing medical practice.
A loving family with three young kids.
A healthy body that let me lift weights, waterski, bicycle, and play basketball in my free time.
My life was full, which is why I couldn’t help but be in denial when I started experiencing chronic pain.
For over five years, my life was on pause. I was robbed by debilitating sensations that prevented me from doing anything literally.
On my worst days, I had to choose between taking my family out to dinner, or treating a few patients, simply because I couldn’t do both.
I even remember the times where my family had to pull up a couch next to the dinner table for me to lay down and eat because I couldn’t enjoy a meal in a regular chair with them.
In many ways, chronic pain stunted my life, and I know there are others with similar experiences. I know at times that you feel like there’s nothing out there that will bring you relief because I’ve been there too.
Chronic pain, as you’ll see in my story, is, in many ways, unexpected, inexplicable, and sometimes inevitable.
However, from experience, I’m here to reassure you that chronic pain is not your fault.
You deserve to live an abundant and pain-free life, and that there are therapies that will help you find the relief you need.
After over five years of debilitating pain, I found relief with a spinal stimulator, and I’m sharing my story in hopes that you can too.
The Onset of My Chronic Back Pain
I never thought that living in chronic pain would happen to me.
Simply because pain was not “me.”
I specialized in pain management and lived an active, healthy lifestyle; never could I become the victim of chronic back pain.
Never could I imagine that one day, just by merely joking around and picking up my wife, would I experience a pop in my back that would change everything.
But I’ve learned that chronic pain doesn’t work that way.
More often than not, simple activities cause the dreaded “pop” or the onset of unwelcomed sensations in your hips, legs, back, and neck that sometimes never go away.
Even worse, sometimes these injuries and pain sensations are like ghosts on MRIs and X Rays—nothing appears to be wrong. Nothing seems to be causing your pain.
More often than not, chronic pain is elusive simply because everybody’s spine gets older. Every spine can have mild levels of degenerative changes, like my MRI, which showed mild disc herniation at one level and shrinking discs at the other level.
My MRI didn’t show anything that would point to the excruciating pain I was in, and I’ve seen similar cases in many of my patients.
Regardless, the pain and my denial persisted long after I felt the initial pop.
Initially, I stayed in bed a couple of days, then immediately went back to work, to be on my feet, and treat patients with a “stiff back.”
Day by day, my pain got worse, so I eventually cut back my work schedule to part-time.
I made it about six months before I finally cut the denial, and said to myself, “I can’t do this.”
My Life Was Put on Hold Due To Chronic Pain
I suffered from life-debilitating severe dull aching pain.
On good days my pain was at a six.
On the bad days, my pain was at an eight, and unfortunately, there were more bad days than good.
I managed to maintain my practice with telemedicine appointments so I could work from home in my bed.
Until trying to work at all was no longer sustainable. One day I finally gave in and started looking for relief.
I had all the treatments and went to multiple doctors.
Spinal injections. Didn’t work.
Physical therapy. Didn’t work.
Chiropractor. Didn’t work.
The only thing that gave me relief was pain medication, which dropped my levels to about a five. Better, but still unsatisfactory to get me back to my life, practice, and family.
Even with medications, there were many days that I experienced lifestyle-limiting pain, where I couldn’t get out of bed for more than 45 minutes. It felt as if I had broken a bone, and my instinct was just to stay immobile to avoid further injury and pain. My pain was forcing me to live life in bed, but let me say this:
You can’t be in bed when your kids want to jump on you and play.
You can’t be in bed when you want to spoil your family with a beautiful night out.
You can’t be in bed when you want to pursue an ambitious career.
You can’t be in bed for all the important milestones and occasions.
The bottom line is that you can’t live your life in bed.
I was starting to feel desperate to escape feeling shackled to my bed, robbed of my life. And if you’ve felt the same way, then you might have started doing what I did—talking to surgeons.
My Pain Worsened After Two Failed Back Surgeries
When you talk to a surgeon, you’ll find that they believe in what they do, and they’ll recommend a procedure like a spinal fusion to help alleviate the pain.
After working in the industry, I knew that back surgery does not always mean pain relief. The odds are only 50/50 that you’ll get better.
50% failure in back surgeries is not good odds.
In fact, many patients experience Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS), a condition characterized by heightened chronic pain following back or neck surgery.
I put off deciding for months, but being desperately tied to bed with an active family and practice, I finally decided to throw the dice. I picked the best surgeon I knew and relied on his advice to give me the best treatment.
In November 2009, I had a discectomy, a procedure that removes a part of the disc in between your vertebrae.
The procedure did not help at all, and it made my pain worse for a few months, and I was more bedridden than ever.
A few months later, I had much more invasive spinal fusion at L5 and S1, the joint that connects your low back to your sacrum.
Again, it was a desperate attempt to improve my pain, but still, it didn’t help at all. It just made it worse.
Two attempts at surgery, highly invasive and expensive procedures, for only heightened pain, was shattering.
I was living with Failed Back Surgery Syndrome that was a pain level of an eight to nine on a daily basis.
Not only did it affect me, but it devastated my family emotionally, mentally, and physically.
We couldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t do anything.
Occasionally I knew my wife was asking herself, “Has he just given up?”
I struggled to see patients occasionally in the office, and in fact, had to go on disability to stay solvent.
I was on so much medication that my appetite was affected. At one point, I was gaunt from losing 40 pounds. I had to get a check-up because people thought I had cancer.
Ironically, in many ways being in life-debilitating chronic pain is like living with stage four cancer, except you’re not going to die.
I lived in bed disabled, hanging on with the support of my family and the government.
Finding Relief With a Spinal Stimulator
A full year after the surgery, I gradually was able to work up to four hours a day. Until about three years ago, when new spinal cord stimulator technology came out that could target axial trunk pain and low back pain.
I immediately pursued the opportunity to have an implant, and after a successful trial period, I felt same-day relief.
The pain was finally gone.
Related: Treating Your Chronic Back Pain With a Spinal Stimulator
I had hope for the first time in years.
I went through with the complete implant and never looked back.
The spinal stimulator allowed me to:
- Treat my patients again
- Spend quality time with my family
- Get back outdoors
- Play basketball with my kids
Before, going out with my family and treating patients on the same day wasn’t even on the table. It wasn’t even a consideration because my pain levels made me pick one over the other.
With the spinal stimulator, I could have both. I could have it all.
The spinal stimulator gave me back 100% of my life, and I know it can help you too.
My Advice: Don’t Give Up
Today I do spinal stimulator implants for my patients, and the minute they turn it on in the recovery room, I can see the difference in their faces.
I’ve had patients cry of tears of joy because their pain is suddenly gone.
I empathize with them because I also felt a tremendous sense of relief and joy that I could have my life back with a spinal stimulator. Something that I feared would never happen again with my chronic pain.
I know other doctors get that spinal stimulators are a great innovation and revolution in the pain management world.
But nobody gets it like me, because I’ve lived with the disability from chronic pain.
Nobody emphasizes spinal stimulation like Advanced Pain Care does, which is why we prioritize stimulators for our patients and have the number one spinal cord stimulator practice in the country.
Thanks to spinal stimulators, we can cure many cases of chronic back pain today that we couldn’t ten years ago.
We know that if you’re the right candidate, then you can find relief from this technology as I did.
Don’t give up hope, avoid surgery, and reach out to us about this incredible non-invasive technology that can give your life back in less than a day.
Call and book an appointment with one of our pain specialists, or feel free to reach out with questions with our 24/7 live chat.