Health Headlines: Spinal stimulator helping relieve chronic back pain

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 6:28 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Almost 16 million American adults complain of chronic backaches. It’s a stabbing, pulsing pain that can’t be easily relieved by medication or physical therapy. But now there might be some hope for relief.

64-year-old James Moharter spent 17 of those years in excruciating pain, “We got hit from behind, sent into some other vehicles, five cars rolled and rolled.”

He’s had three back surgeries that provided no relief and was on pain medication 24 hours a day that included morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

“People would be pinning notes on me because they came to the house and couldn’t wake me up.”

James told his doctors he wanted to find another way to manage the pain. So, doctors at Duke suggested a spinal stimulator.

The device looks like a pacemaker attached to two wires. The leads are placed in the epidural space and send electrical impulses down into the spinal cord.

Surgeons implant the device in the lower back or buttocks which targets the nerves that process pain. The patient then controls the strength of the signal with a remote.

Moharter says he barely needs any medication at all now, “I have a wireless charger that I have to hold against my hip every couple of weeks to charge me up a little bit.”

And for the first time in years, Moharter says he’s going camping.

“Couldn’t do this before. I’m trying to gain back things that I thought I never would do again.”

Before doctors permanently implant the stimulator, patients need to go through a five to seven-day trial with the device. The stimulators can be removed if there is an infection or a mechanical problem.