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.
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.
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.