Below she answers some of the common questions she's heard from people as they consider their treatment options for severe chronic pain.

The nurse is paid by Medtronic as a consultant. Medtronic asked for her statements regarding her experience with spinal cord stimulation and targeted drug delivery.

Melissa P., RN, BSN, says:
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a diagnostic tool that doctors use to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. Doctors may use MRI to detect bleeding, tumors, injury to muscles or joints, and to check the spine for disc and nerve problems, just to name a few. MRI can show a more detailed picture than x-rays, ultrasounds, and even CT scans. There are many reasons someone might need an MRI scan in the future, so it is best to always have that as an option if needed.

Not all implanted medical devices used to treat chronic pain are MRI-safe. In fact, some implants can keep you from having an MRI. It is best to get MRI-safe systems, such as Medtronic SureScan systems, so that you can get an MRI if needed. We never know what the future holds, and when we might need an MRI.

Melissa P., RN, BSN, says:
Pain specialists have more tests to help identify the specific type of chronic pain. And because they understand your pain better, they can better treat your pain. Your pain specialist’s primary concern is your quality of life.

In addition to a variety of medications and dosing, pain specialists offer a broad range of treatments to provide relief for chronic pain. Some options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Injections
  • Medical devices such as neurostimulators and pain pumps
  • Nerve blocks
  • Corrective surgery
  • Electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

If your primary care doctor is unwilling or unable to offer you further treatment options, you can ask for a referral to a pain management specialist. If your doctor doesn’t have a suggestion for a pain specialist, you can call your insurance company to find pain specialists in your area that are covered by your plan. Or use the Find A Specialist tool to find someone who can offer pain expertise near you.

Melissa P., RN, BSN, says:
For several weeks after your surgery, you'll want to be careful with bending, twisting, and lifting. Once the healing is complete, an important goal is to get back to physical activity. But the type and amount will vary by each person. Most people can resume activities like walking, light gardening, and swimming.

However, you'll want to check with your doctor before starting any activity or an exercise program, especially if it's strenuous like running, biking, or taking aerobics classes. You may have restrictions – like no lifting – for a different medical condition or because the activity may make your condition worse.

Activities to avoid include scuba diving below water depths of 33 feet (10 meters). If you have a pain pump, activities involving exposure to temperatures higher than 102°F (39°C) are off-limits. That includes hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas. Some doctors tell their patients to also avoid activities that require twisting or stretching, like yoga or gymnastics. It's important to discuss your specific exercise goals with your doctor.

Whatever activity you decide on, you'll want to build up slowly. With less pain, you may be tempted to jump into activities. If you overdo it, however, you may get sore muscles and think that your therapy isn't working. Remember that your therapy will manage your pain, not cure it. However, it is allowing you to get back to some activities you enjoy.

Melissa P., RN, BSN, says:
Once you have your doctor's OK to travel after surgery, an implantable device for chronic pain shouldn't affect your ability to travel. You'll likely feel better due to pain relief after receiving your drug delivery or neurostimulation therapy. Just be careful not to overdo it. A talk with your doctor before you leave on your trip will help you know if there are certain activities to avoid or how much you can increase your usual level of physical activity.

Many people wonder about going through airport security. If you inform the security officer that you have an implanted medical device, you'll generally be given the option of a security wand screening instead of walking through a metal detector.

Medtronic Chronic Pain Therapies help people get back to the things that make everyday life special. And that includes traveling.

Melissa P., RN, BSN, says:
A screening test is the first step to determine if targeted drug delivery is the right therapy for you. You and your doctor will discuss whether the screening test met your treatment goals: Did it decrease pain? Did it improve function? Were there side effects?

If you are not satisfied with the results, the doctor may take additional steps to adjust your dose, medication, or programming. In some cases, your doctor may propose that you repeat the screening test after you slowly taper, reduce, or eliminate oral opioids. This is because oral opioid therapy may interfere with the predictive value of the screening test.

In other cases, a negative screening test may lead to additional diagnostic evaluations (such as imaging, electromyograms, surgical consultation, etc.) to help your doctor better understand the source of your back pain and decide if you should receive targeted drug delivery. Lastly, a negative screening test may indicate that you are not a good candidate for targeted drug delivery. Keep in mind that targeted drug delivery is not for everyone.

Melissa P., RN, BSN, says:
A screening test is the first step to determine if targeted drug delivery is the right therapy for you. You and your doctor will discuss whether the screening test met your treatment goals: Did it decrease pain? Did it improve function? Were there side effects?

If you are not satisfied with the results, the doctor may take additional steps to adjust your dose, medication, or programming. In some cases, your doctor may propose that you repeat the screening test after you slowly taper, reduce, or eliminate oral opioids. This is because oral opioid therapy may interfere with the predictive value of the screening test.

In other cases, a negative screening test may lead to additional diagnostic evaluations (such as imaging, electromyograms, surgical consultation, etc.) to help your doctor better understand the source of your back pain and decide if you should receive targeted drug delivery. Lastly, a negative screening test may indicate that you are not a good candidate for targeted drug delivery. Keep in mind that targeted drug delivery is not for everyone.