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 four wheeling through a mountainous, wooded area of Arizona in 2005, Harmony took a sharp turn around a corner, then jumped from the four wheeler to avoid a cliff. She broke her back and foot and sustained head injuries. Her broken back went undiagnosed for two months, and by the time she received the diagnosis, it was too late to have surgery.
"The pain started immediately in my back and never stopped," Harmony remembers. "I felt it in the middle of my lower back, mainly on the right side. It was a stabbing, shooting, electric shock-like pain."
At the time of the accident, Harmony was pursuing a dream of becoming a professional dirt bike racer. That dream ended with the accident. She couldn't walk or stand for more than a few minutes at a time, was unable to lift, and constantly felt fatigued. She stopped doing the things she loved with her son like hiking or sliding down the slippery river rocks near their home.
"I lost hope and quit doing the things I loved," she says. "I isolated myself from people because I couldn't do what they liked to do. I was frustrated and afraid for the future."
To control the pain, Harmony looked to pain medications and muscle relaxers, but they affected her negatively. She tried back braces, epidural shots, different forms of therapy, nerve blocks and more. Nothing helped.
Harmony learned about neurostimulation therapy while researching chronic pain treatments on the Internet. She had a screening test to find out if she was a candidate for long-term therapy. During the screening test she had relief in her painful areas.
Harmony began receiving AdaptiveStim® in August 2010 as part of an FDA-approved clinical study. Harmony experienced one complication when a lead in her back migrated. Her physician reprogrammed her device so that she could receive pain relief.
AdaptiveStim, available only from Medtronic with the RestoreSensor® neurostimulator, automatically adjusts stimulation with a change in position. When Harmony moves from sitting or standing to lying down or to upright and active (e.g. hiking), the device remembers the preferred stimulation for that position and applies it. As a result, she doesn't have to adjust amplitude as frequently, and changing positions is more comfortable, when compared to conventional stimulation.
Risks include surgical complications such as infection, pain at the site of surgery, or bleeding into the epidural space. Once the neurostimulation system is implanted, device complications may occur and include jolting, leads breaking, or movement of the leads within the epidural space, which may require reprogramming or surgical replacement of the leads. These events may result in uncomfortable stimulation or loss of therapy.
"I'm able to live my life," she says enthusiastically. "I go camping, I vacuum and I have better posture." She can even keep up with her family. "We went to the Minnesota State Fair for 14 hours one day this summer, and my son and boyfriend wanted to sit down, but I didn't."
Harmony appreciates AdaptiveStim's automatic response to position change. "It is really convenient because the AdaptiveStim technology responds to the different positions that you're in throughout the day. I can turn it on and do what I need to do and not worry about having to carry my remote to change it if I am walking versus just standing.
"I don't use my neurostimulator with the AdaptiveStim turned off. I always have it turned on. It gives me what I want when I want it."
Harmony has a goal of one day riding a four-wheeler. "There's hope back in my life."