A fall left Nancy Bruce in terrible pain.
"It was just unbelievable how bad it was," Bruce told Ivanhoe.
Bruce was desperate for effective pain management. "I had to lay down in bed all the time or on the couch because I couldn't sit," Bruce recalled.
When drugs and traditional therapies weren't enough, Bruce tried spinal cord stimulation. Dr. Jerry Lewis uses it to jam the pain signal.
"The spinal cord is actually a processor, and so it decreases the amount of pain transmission that gets through to the brain," Dr. Lewis, pain medicine specialist at Baylor Plano in Plano, Texas, told Ivanhoe.
A tiny wire was inserted in the epidural space of Bruce's spinal column. She can deliver electrical pulses via a remote control in her spine. It transforms her pain into a less intense, almost tingly sensation. She noticed a difference right away.
"All of a sudden, I had my life back," Bruce explained. "I mean, I could actually do things. I could sit for more than 30 minutes."
Each patient goes through a trial period prior to permanent implantation, and according to Dr. Lewis, 85 percent of trial patients choose to move forward and get the implant. For Bruce, moving forward is going to require a lot of sitting still.
"I'm studying," Bruce said. "I'm getting back to my CPA preparation, and at the end of this month, I take the CPA exam."
It all adds up to a pain-free, pill-free solution to back pain.
The risks of spinal cord stimulation are similar to those of any other surgery. Among them: infection, headache and allergic reaction.