This story recounts the experience of a patient who is receiving Medtronic neurostimulation therapy (also known as spinal cord stimulation) for the treatment of chronic pain. Medtronic invited him/her to share his/her story candidly. Please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to this particular person.
While working as a painter in 2005, Gary was lifting two 5-gallon buckets of paint when he heard a pop. That evening, he had pain that started in the lower left area of his back and shot upward to the right side of his spine.
An MRI showed that his pain was caused by two bulging discs in his lower lumbar spine. It also revealed that Gary had scoliosis and a bulged disc in the middle of his spine.
While his pain started in his lower back, it eventually radiated to his legs and caused numbness in his feet.
"The pain brought me to my knees," Gary recalls. "I was unable to work and couldn't go anywhere without thinking I would have an episode, so I stayed home."
Physical therapy did not provide relief, and oral medication offered only marginal comfort. Gary became concerned he was addicted to the medication, and its side effects were problematic.
Gary's pain physician was knowledgeable about Medtronic pain therapies and thought neurostimulation therapy might provide relief. To make sure, Gary underwent a screening test to determine if he was a candidate for neurostimulation.
"When the device was turned on, I had instant relief—no pain for the first time in 21 months," Gary says. He chose to move ahead with neurostimulation therapy in January 2007.
While Gary did not have any complications, there are risks associated with the procedure. The most frequently reported problems following the neurostimulator implant surgery include infection, lead movement, pain at the implant site, loss of therapy effect, and therapy that did not meet the patient's expectations. For a complete list of adverse events that have been associated with the therapy, please refer to the Important Safety Information.
Physically and mentally, Gary feels better. He's not as short-tempered with his family, his thinking is clearer, and he can drive again. He's even considering returning to work.
"I'm able to do things I couldn't do when I had the pain," Gary explains. "Simple things, like walking, sweeping the floor, and doing the dishes. These tasks sound so easy, but for someone in chronic pain they are very hard."
Gary compares the stimulation sensation to a massage on his back and says that it keeps his discomfort to less than a 5 on the pain scale.
"To this point, neurostimulation has been an excellent alternative to back surgery, and it has eliminated my fear of drug dependency. I am grateful for neurostimulation—it has helped me bring the pain level down," Gary says.