Spinal Cord Stimulation: Power Over Chronic Pain
Pain was crippling Pam Quimby-Montanino's life. Struggling for years with debilitating lupus-induced arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and severe sciatica, the simple task of grocery shopping had become unbearably difficult. Though surgeries—including a spinal fusion, seemed to temporarily ease the pain—results were short-lived, and Pam’s mental outlook and stress level began to match the intensity of her pain.
“My doctor told me that surgeries were no longer an option, and since narcotic-based pain medication was never something I wished to pursue, he suggested I seek a pain clinic,” Pam explained. She made an appointment with Mark Canning, MD, anesthesiologist at South Shore Hospital’s Pain Management Clinic.
“Dr. Canning was so encouraging, and gave me so much hope. He talked to me about a unique treatment for chronic pain called spinal cord stimulation,” Pam recalled. Pam decided to undergo a trial period to assess her response to the procedure.
“Even though the trial lasted five days, I knew immediately that I loved the results, and wanted to permanently implant the device."
As a back pain treatment, spinal cord stimulation actually rewires the nervous system, delivering low-level electrical signals to the spinal cord or to specific nerves to block pain signals from reaching the brain. Once a candidate successfully completes the necessary trial period, he or she may opt for a permanent placement. The minimally-invasive surgical procedure involves placing electrodes close to the spinal cord, which connect to a device similar to a heart pacemaker. The patient is then given an external, handheld device which allows intensity adjustments of the signals to be made.
Through the combined expertise of a multidisciplinary team of pain specialists, South Shore Hospital’s pain management center offers comprehensive, advanced treatment options for patients with acute or chronic pain.
“I am a new person. I didn’t have a quality of life before spinal cord stimulation... now I do,” Pam said.