AUSTIN -- They're tiny devices that basically talk to your spinal cord. Spinal cord stimulators have been around for decades. But only within the last ten years have technological advancements turned them into viable pain treatment.
"I'm 72 years old, and I believe this extended my life," said Les Short, a Kyle resident who's put up with chronic back and leg pain for the last several years.
Short sits near the same type of 200 pound stone blocks he used to move around as a stone mason.
"Then when you get old it catches up with you," said Short.
It caught up to Short in the form of constant pain in his lower back and knees.
"The pain was so severe I could be walking and fall," he said. "Like the doctor told me, one of those falls could actually kill you, so it was a wake-up call."
When pain medication and therapy failed to provide any significant relief, Doctor Brannon Frank with Austin Pain Associates recommended the Boston Scientific Spinal Cord Stimulator.
"The spinal cord stimulator blocks pain signals before they get to the brain," said Frank, who is a board certified anesthesiologist and pain management specialist.
Nerves send a signal to your spinal cord, which is then relayed to your brain that you're hurting.
"So what this does is intercepts the signal on the way -- scrambles it and by the time it gets to your brain your brain thinks it's got a soothing, tingling sensation in the area that you normally have pain," said Frank.
Doctors implant a pacemaker sized battery attached to a wire to stimulate an area of the spinal cord. A tiny remote control allows patients to increase or decrease the stimulation from the spinal cord stimulator. It also allows them to direct the stimulation to the areas where they need it most.
"I think it's a fantastic treatment for patients who are suffering on a daily basis from pain," said Frank.
Short agrees. He got his spinal cord stimulator in June and says for the first time in almost a decade, he can sleep and go about his daily routine without constant pain.
"For me it's a new lease on life," said Short. "I can actually walk down to the mailbox now and walk back without hurting. I can go up and down the stairs at my house without hurting."
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