Eye On Health: Fighting chronic back pain with spinal stimulation
CLVELAND, TN (WRCB) -- Nearly 65 million Americans report having a recent episode of back pain. And in many of those cases, the pain is chronic.
Going under the knife is sometimes an option, but in this Eye On Health report, we let you what to do if surgery isn't the best fit, or doesn't even work.
It's a procedure that's been around for nearly 20 years, but medical experts say new technology over the past few years has made spinal cord stimulation one of the best weapons in the fight against chronic back pain.
Dr. Neal Frauwirth runs the Center for Pain Management in Bradley County. "Spinal cord stimulator is a relatively new option that has the ability to reduce pain without taking additional medication," he says .
And that's good news for patients like Virginia Chance who had suffered from chronic back pain for over 20 years, which led to bouts of depression. She said dealing with the pain made everyday life very hard.
"To go on family vacations, sitting in a car was almost out of the question we were a big camping family. I just couldn't do it anymore," she told us.
So Virginia underwent three surgical procedures in 14 months, along with intense physical therapy, but she says nothing worked.
That's where spinal cord stimulation comes in. It most cases it's used after back surgery fails.
Dr. Frauwirth explains how the procedure works: "A small device is placed in patients lower back and an electrode wire is slowly guided through the catheter and the catheter is left in the epidural space."
"To find out if this procedure is right for you, patients first take a test drive," Dr. Frauwirth explains. "Simply put, that means that you undergo a reversible surgical procedure that will allow you to actually experience how the system works for about a week, and find out if it actually can relieve your back pain."
Dr. Frauwirth says if he sees a 50 to70 percent reduction in pain, he then moves ahead with a permanent implantation. The doctor and patient then determine the best pulse strength.
You can then increase it or decrease it depending on how much relief you need. When in use, the spinal cord stimulator creates a tingling feeling, rather than the pain you have felt in the past.
Although not back to one hundred percent, Virginia, says this procedure gave her her life back. And now she can enjoy time with her grandchildren.
"I am a little apprehensive about running, jumping, but we certainly go to the zoo, go for a walk, go to the park, it gave me a life," she says with a smile.
And she's doing it with very little back pain.