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.
In 1998, Janice was in training to become a professional boxer. She worked out every day, and was physically and mentally strong. She also worked hard and fast as a bartender. One day while working, she picked up a keg of beer with one hand, then turned to pick up a case of beer with the other. She felt a crack in her back and pain that would not subside for years to come. Janice had broken a vertebrae and a disc had slipped.
"I could barely move," Janice remembers. "I was crunched over. I couldn't walk or drive. I couldn't work." A friend moved in with Janice to help her with meals and transportation, but eventually she had to move from her home in Las Vegas to her parent's home in New Mexico.
"The pain felt like someone poured cement across my lower back," she says. "It went down my legs. I was in so much pain."
Janice started taking pain medications to control the symptoms. She learned she had a very high tolerance to drugs. As she took more drugs, her tolerance continued to increase. In addition to drugs, she tried acupuncture and massage therapy.
In March 1999, Janice had back surgery. Afterward, she could stand up straight, walk, and drive. The surgery was a success, but she still needed pain medications, although at much lower dosages.
Eventually, Janice returned to Las Vegas where she enrolled in a casino dealer school and found a job dealing cards. In August 2008, at the end of a shift at the casino, she slipped on a pen cap and reinjured her back. To control the pain, she needed higher dosages of pain medication. At her peak, Janice was taking 11 different types of oral medications, including antidepressants. Concerned about the amount of medication she was taking, her doctor encouraged her to try neurostimulation therapy.
To determine if she was a candidate for long-term neurostimulation therapy, Janice had a screening test. "It wasn't long before I said, 'I want this! I want this so badly!'"
Janice began receiving AdaptiveStim® in August 2010 as part of an FDA-approved clinical study. AdaptiveStim, available only from Medtronic with the RestoreSensor® neurostimulator, automatically adjusts stimulation with a change in position. When Janice 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.
Janice didn't experience any complications with her surgery. However, some people do experience 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.
"AdaptiveStim knows what I want and need. I love it. I'll be in bed and lean to the right or left and it knows. For me, my back hurts a little more when I lean to one side and the AdaptiveStim knows that and so it's a little stronger on that side. It automatically knows."
After receiving her device, Janice was able to stop taking oral pain medications. "It was so great to realize that I don't need the drugs anymore," she says. "I just click on my neurostimulator and I feel good."
Janice regularly trims trees and bushes and walks her dogs in the park.
"Before, it was hard for me to sleep because I was in so much pain. Now, I can sleep without pain."
The AdaptiveStim feature has been helpful to Janice. During the first phase of the clinical study, AdaptiveStim was not turned on, and Janice had to manually adjust the stimulation. Later in the study, AdaptiveStim was turned on. "Now that AdaptiveStim is available, I keep it on. I don't want to monkey with the buttons."
"This device has really changed my life. I'm so happy about this."