Chronic pain affects 30 percent of people in America, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
That’s one reason for the explosion in opioid abuse and addiction.
But a new tool gives doctors a new option to help their patients with chronic pain. It’s a neuro-stimulator called the HF 10, and it’s dramatically reduced pain for many patients.
Alisha Constancio is one of those patients. A car accident left her with chronic pain and headaches.
“I couldn’t even dress myself or shower without having or experiencing a flare up or severe pain,” said Constancio.
She was on four different drugs and tried other treatments, but her life was still dominated by pain.
Dr. Vernon Williams, director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medication at Kerlan-Jobe Institute, said an implanted device that sends high frequency pulses to nerves through wires near the spine may help patients like Constancio.
“Potentially, you can turn up or turn down certain signals, turn off certain pain signals and give significant improvement of pain without the need for opioids or other medications,” Williams said.
Williams says the HF 10 uses high-frequency, eliminating a side effect of other neurostimulators.
“What that means for the individual is that when they have that stimulator on, and it’s covering an area where they have pain, they don’t feel paresthesia, meaning they don’t feel tingling or buzzing, any kind of uncomfortable sensation,” Willams explained.
Eighty percent of patients in a clinical trial reported losing at least half their pain, and it seems to last. Alisha controls the pulses with a remote, depending on her pain level, and she can recharge the battery as well.
“I hardly experience pain or I hardly notice it, which is good enough for me,” Constancio said.
Before they get the HF 10 implanted, patients get a temporary version of it, to make sure it works.
The device is implanted in an hour-long minor surgical procedure.
Doctors say the best candidates are those with moderate to severe back or leg pain they’ve had for more than three months.
But patients also need to have tried other treatment like medications or physical therapy first.