New surgical option eases chronic pain

LOS ANGELES A fall left Nancy Bruce in terrible pain.

"It was just unbelievable how bad it was," she said. "I had to lay down in bed all the time or on the couch because I couldn't sit."

Nancy was desperate for effective pain management. When drugs and traditional therapies weren't enough, Nancy tried spinal cord stimulation, which Dr. Jerry Lewis uses 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," Lewis said.

A tiny wire was inserted in the epidural space of Nancy'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.

"All of a sudden, I had my life back. I mean, I could actually do things. I could sit for more than 30 minutes," she said.

Each patient goes through a trial period prior to permanent implantation, and according to Lewis, 85 percent of trial patients choose to move forward and get the implant. For Nancy, moving forward is going to require a lot of sitting still.

"I'm studying. I'm getting back to my CPA preparation, and at the end of this month, I take the CPA exam," she said.

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, including infection, headache and allergic reaction.

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