My Story: Regaining Control of my Chronic Pain

My Story: Regaining Control of my Chronic Pain

By Kaye Gagnon.

Editor’s Note: The following article is a personal account of a successful experience with a neuromodulation system for pain – it is NOT a sponsored article. We encourage anyone considering new treatments and therapies to discuss the various options, as well as the pros and cons of each, with their healthcare provider.

One day while driving home on the Pacific Coast Highway, my car was rear-ended as part of a three-car accident. I had been hit by a texting driver and that devastating moment changed my life, putting me on the path to finding a solution for my long-term, chronic lower back pain.

Immediately following the accident, I thought I would heal quickly. But a few days later, I couldn’t believe how wrong I was. On a scale of one to ten, my pain levels were a nine, sometimes even twelve. I was unable to sit, walk, or move. When I was home, I spent most of my time lying on the living room floor. That was the only position I could somewhat tolerate the pain, and even then, I was typically an eight out of ten on the pain scale. At work, I took conference calls alone in my office while lying on the floor.

Before the accident, I was in good shape. I had some aches and pains, but considered them normal for a woman my age. I regularly enjoyed walking and practicing yoga and Pilates. I never imagined my life changing so suddenly. Now I was having issues with my hips, back and neck.

Everyday tasks seemed almost impossible and simple activities such as getting dressed or driving my car were a struggle. Leaning forward to brush my teeth was excruciating so to avoid the pain, I swapped out my faucet. I was no longer able to easily get in and out of my car so had to buy a new one that made this process easier. Concentrating was also a challenge and I had to spend extra time just to accomplish the simplest of work tasks.

It might sound ridiculous, but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even tell how much pain I was in. I immediately went into survival mode. Chronic pain works against the psyche, to the point of depression, between not being able to move, concentrate, and being in constant pain.

Finding a Solution

As a former Aerospace engineer, I felt there had to be something more effective than opioids or injections to help manage my pain. I was very concerned about the risk of addiction associated with opioid, in addition to potential risks as a result of cortisone injections.

To help manage the pain, I stuck with a battery of alternative methods including acupuncture, homeopathic, and physical therapy. I was open to trying anything in hopes of feeling relief. I used both over the counter and prescription painkillers, but was unfortunately resistant to them. As it turns out, I developed a hole in my stomach as a result of the medications, despite my attempts to limit use. I attended physical therapy appointments three times a week in hope that would help alleviate some of the pain, but this was no easy task while maintaining a full time work schedule. Even though physical therapy was painful, it allowed me to function – even if at a minimum.

Second Chances

Although it seemed like I would be suffering from lower back pain for the rest of my life, I continued to pursue an acceptable treatment path. On my third opinion appointment I found out about a clinical trial for the Bioness StimRouter, a small, implantable neuromodulation device that would target my pain right at the source. The hope was after a short procedure, I would be on my way to regaining my formerly active lifestyle.

In 2013, one year after my accident, I was accepted into the trial and the device was implanted into my lower back. Thanks to a handheld component, I am in complete control of my pain. This device immediately changed my life and after a three-week period, I saw a dramatic decrease in pain.

Right after the procedure, I didn’t need as much pain medication and after about six weeks I stopped taking it and was able to walk again. Within a few months, I could sit through a one hour meeting without having to get up and relieve my lower back pain. I continued physical therapy for other pain, but didn’t need therapy for the specific location the device was treating. I’ve also seen a dramatic increase in my lower back mobility.

I was surprised as to how well this alternative pain management solution worked. It was a lifesaver. When you’re an active person like myself, and all of a sudden your body doesn’t work and you’re in constant pain, it’s very tough. Now, my chronic pain is manageable.

Looking forward

After three years, my pain levels have diminished significantly. I am once again able to practice yoga and Pilates, and am back to walking my dog for two hours. I quite literally have my life back.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit of a control freak, and love that I have control over my pain. I didn’t have that feeling when I was relying on medications. I was never sure how I would feel, physically or mentally. With chronic pain, the simplest of bumps could send me spiraling into pain and emotional stress.

Now, I’m mobile and constantly busy. If you told me this would be my life after suffering from the accident, I wouldn’t have believed you. Looking back on it, I’m very glad that I was so persistent and able to find a remedy that was more suited to my needs.

If you suffer from chronic pain, don’t stop fighting. There is likely no specific treatment that will cure your pain, but there are options. Hopefully, you will find a pain management treatment that is right for you, just like I did.

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Authored by: Kaye Gagnon

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. D Dorgan at 9:01 pm

    I am glad to hear the stimulator is working for you. My husband has a failed back syndrome after 2 level lumbar fusion with hardware performed in 2000. In 2002 after a lengthy evaluation process which included psychological assessment to assure the docs he was not “imagining” his pain, he was implanted with a nerve stimulator. It worked fairly well for him, but he still required short acting opiates for breakthrough pain. We were told that with his condition he could expect about a 30 percent reduction in pain, about equal to long acting opiates. In 2005 he was due for a battery replacement and paddle lead changes. The new equipment was placed but never activated as he developed a hospital acquired MRSA infection 9 days after the surgery. Another 30 days inpatient care with IV Vancomyacin via PICC line to the heart was miserable. He elected not to have the nerve stimulator replaced, opting instead for long term opiate treatment (methadone) for pain management. By 2014 we noticed the increased supervision and restriction of medications. It is frustrating to be treated as a criminal for having pain. Especially for a man who spent 12 years as a police officer. By 2015 under the pain management doc’s supervision, he weaned off his 50 mg daily methadone, replacing it with medical marijuana (we live in a state where both medical and recreational cannabis is legal). All of his physicians are aware of his new pain management choice. He uses tinctures, capsules, and vaporized forms of cannabis, with better relief than the methadone provided. He could have another stimulator implanted, but after one MRSA you are at a higher risk of another MRSA and he is not willing to risk it. Also, the scarring caused by the initial surgery and the placement of leads makes additional changes more difficult. While cannabis may not work for everyone, it is often worth trying. You are in the minority of pain patients we have met with nerve stimulators. Most that we have met have fair to moderate relief but still require breakthrough meds for severe pain. I hope your stimulator continues to work well for you. Thank you for sharing a success story and good luck in the future.

  2. Ibin Aiken at 7:22 am

    I don’t believe that the chronic pain sufferer after enough time is interested in anything but what really eases the constant severe pain. An everyday opioid regiment should not be the first line of defense but, after being a chronic pain patient for 23 years, I have exhausted all means of easing my pain. My physicians are concurrent.with their diagnosis for me. More surgery, massage, chiropractic, herbal solutions, and change of life style has not, and will not gain me a less painful body. To limit our physicians by CDC’s “mis-guided line” is a hardcore attempt to stop recreational use of opioids without considering those with chronic pain who HAVE exhausted other means to gain pain control for themselves. It will NOT work. Most of the chronic pain patients I know are very humble. It is grievous to see them made to suffer quite needlessly.
    Our hardcore “lawyer” elected officials have not been in Americas trenches building this country, maintaining this countries supply line for basic life. They are completely out of touch with the average Americans way of life. They do not take into consideration that people have and are going to contract painful disease, be involved in accidents, and be a victim of botched surgery. For millions of Americans regaining control of their chronic pain is at best….questionable. No “government” agency has made available any real means of alternate continuous, severe, daily pain control method nor does it matter to the pain free body. The “guideline” was enacted in the attempt to curb the way a person thinks. To “dry up” the opioid medication for one and all regardless if opioid medication is the last resort for chronic pain or not. I do not think those of us who HAVE followed doctors orders in the use of opioid medication will turn to illicit, illegal drug use. That is what makes us…..us! So the bottom line with the ‘guideline” is unnecessary, unwarranted, people control.

  3. Jean Price at 9:49 am

    I’m so glad this worked well for you! I think one of the things it helps to remember is that we EACH just might find that one thing that’s a life saver…and we keep looking and listening and researching to help us know what’s happening to others, what’s new in the treatment of pain…like your research study….and we keep an open mind to alternative treatments….especially for things we haven’t yet tried! Most effective pain care involves multiple types of therapies, both standard medical practices and alternative medicine. Pain medication is just ONE adjunct therapy, often to help us be able to maintain other types of therapy…like physical therapy or a whole range of other treatment modalities!

    Daily, life-life limiting pain is as individual as our fingerprints! Since we all have various body shapes, sizes, makeups, medical conditions outside of pain, and ALL types of different reasons for having pain in the first place!! Plus we all come at this from varying places of overall wellness to begin with! So our starting points can be drastically different….as are our life situations.

    Wellness or health isn’t just the ABSENCE of a disease or an injury…or pain! It encompasses way more than this! It’s our physical health…along with our mental health, emotional health, financial health, spiritual health, relationship health, with even our transportation and housing “health” thrown into the mix! So we all have both strengths AND weaknesses…in ANY number of combinations of these factors! And we can withstand some weakness more easily than others…or make arrangements to cover those, like for our “transportation wellness”!

    What I don’t believe any of us can do is let ANY ONE of these areas slide, or be left “unattended” by us…if we expect to live a full and abundant lif…whether we live WITH PAIN OR WITHOUT PAIN! We are definitely multi-dimensional beings! And made to live in communities! So we certainly do feel the losses in any of these areas. It can be a major challenge to deal with any of these ALONG with pain, so we need all the help we can get! And we need the connections, like sharing our stories offers! !

  4. Danny at 7:59 am

    Obviously, finding something to control your pain is a wonderful thing. Congratulations!

    However, early in this article, it was stated that the fear of addiction to opioids led to the use of alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, homeopathic, and physical therapy. And yet, you discuss the “hole in (your) stomach” from using “over the counter and prescription medications”. It’s clear that your fear of addiction didn’t outweigh the pain you were suffering, so you used pain medications just like most of the rest of us. “Addiction” is different than “physical dependence”. They both will result in withdrawals if used for a significant amount of time, but “addiction”, in my opinion, is the result of abuse and/or overuse and is a psychological need to use them, as opposed to using them as directed.

    Regardless, hopefully there are others here who suffer from lower back pain that can benefit from your experience. It would be a great thing if this treatment would help others!

  5. HJ at 5:34 am

    Can you get an MRI with this? Where is it implanted?

    I will likely need MRI’s in the future, so that’s always a question for me. Thank you!

  6. Jasmin at 4:45 am

    This is wonderful that you were able to finally find something that would or could manage your pain. I in a similar situation have went to physical therapy, done shots, I have tried everything that they have to offer except now for getting a device put into my lower back. I am in pain management and for me, it is a life saver because otherwise I would not be able to even walk. Of course, I have to and need to take meds 3 times a day. But I can live life and not be on the floor screaming for God to please help me. I believe everyone’s situation is different and however they decide to deal with their pain is their rights.