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Bouncing Back from Chronic Back Pain: Skip’s Story
Skip’s chronic back and hip pain was so intense, he couldn’t sit still long enough to play a song on his guitar. He couldn’t lift his camera. He couldn’t hold his wife in his arms at night. On his doctors’ 0-10 pain intensity scales, Skip described his pain as a 10+.
“I was immobile,” said Skip. “I couldn’t do anything.”
Skip’s journey with chronic pain began after he suffered a series of military-related back injuries. He underwent several corrective back surgeries, but still, after 20 years as an engineer in the U.S. Navy, Skip was forced to retire as disabled. He began an ever-increasing, ever-evolving series of prescription pain medications. Even on the highest doses of opioids, Skip couldn’t find relief.
“I’m still in pain,” Skip realized. “There’s got to be something else I can do.”
Skip spoke with his doctors, and they agreed to help him explore pain management alternatives to opioids. Their recommendation: spinal cord stimulation.
Skip’s doctors would implant a small, rechargeable electronic device on his back. Thin wires, or leads, attached to the device would be placed on nerve fibers of Skip’s spinal cord. When turned on, the device can send electrical currents through those leads to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord, provoking the nerves themselves and blocking their pain signals from reaching the brain.
Skip’s doctor, Dr. Chris Karas at OhioHealth in Columbus, explained, “We see pain relief immediately in most patients [who receive spinal cord stimulation], and we see functional improvement in a very short period, usually within a week or two, although not every patient experience is exactly the same.”
For Skip, the results of his spinal cord stimulation treatment have been no less than life-changing.
“It’s given me the ability to be me again,” Skip said. With the spinal cord stimulation, his pain is manageable, and he’s back to living an active life.
He’s practicing music and photography once more. And he’s hugging his wife much more closely lately.
“I’m able to roll over, lay on my side and actually wrap my arms around my wife again,” Skip said. “It’s an amazing thing.”
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