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.
Tanya doesn't remember a single event that lead to her chronic pain. It appeared gradually, beginning in 1997 as a stabbing, throbbing pain in her back. While driving she'd have to pull over for a few minutes, and when she was walking she'd have to stop moving. Her sleep was interrupted by the pain.
"It was puzzling," Tanya says, "because there was no injury." Tests revealed that Tanya had a herniated disc and degeneration. In addition, her tailbone was crushed, possibly as a result of falling down a flight of stairs.
Tanya's symptoms increased over the next four years. She felt a tingling sensation in her back and lost feeling in her feet. She had to give up activities with her five children.
"I wasn't able to lift anything or be physical," she says. "I loved to walk and bike, and gradually all those things went away. My favorite activity was jumping on the trampoline with my kids. I lost that and I missed it the most."
Eventually, Tanya's activities were limited to cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner and going grocery shopping. She spent most of her time on the couch and relied heavily on her family.
"I wondered if my days would ever be brighter. I wondered if I'd ever be able to play with the kids again."
Tanya tried many treatments with the hope that they'd provide relief, including water therapy, physical therapy, steroid shots, nerve blocks, a TENS unit, and heavy pain medication.
"At first the narcotics made me tired," Tanya remembers. "Over time my body would adapt to the drug. They helped a little, but not a lot."
Tanya had a laminectomy and a three-level fusion. The pain returned.
Tanya visited a pain clinic where she learned about Medtronic neurostimulation therapy. She was eager to proceed with the treatment. She had a screening test that allowed her to use a temporary neurostimulator to see if it would give her relief.
Tanya 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 Tanya moves from sitting or standing to lying down or to upright and active (e.g. jogging), the AdaptiveStim feature 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, whn compared to conventional stimulation.
Tanya 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.
"All of my kids—ages 17 down to age four—have grown up with my back issue, especially my 17-year-old daughter." Says Tanya. "My health was a constant worry for her. She'd wonder if I was going to be alright and how things were going for me."
Things are better now for Tanya and her family. "The neurostimulation has taken away so much worry, anxiety, and frustration for all of us," she says. "It has improved the life of every person in our family."
Tanya is back doing many of the things she couldn't do before, including activities with her family. "For someone who could do absolutely nothing before neurostimulation, being able to do even the most menial tasks has been amazing for me. I rely on this device."
During Tanya's screening test, her temporary device did not have the AdaptiveStim feature. Her implanted device, however, has this feature. "During the screening test I would lie down and the setting was too strong, and I'd turn it down. The cool thing about AdaptiveStim is that it automatically adjusts when I lie down. It's pretty neat. AdaptiveStim allows me to go about my day."
Tanya now takes one-third of the pain medications she was taking before getting her neurostimulator. Instead of a daily pain score that was at a 7, it is at a 4 or a 5. "For me, that's amazing. It's brought my pain level down so many notches."
Tanya has advice for anyone who is considering neurostimulation therapy. "If you are having the same feelings I was—wondering if you'll ever feel better or if there is anything else out there for pain relief—I hope my story will give you hope. This device has changed my life and my family's lives, too."