New state-of-the-art device stimulates spine to relieve back pain

Back pain can be one of the most debilitating health problems, but a new minimally invasive procedure is helping relieve the pain.

A woman in Rosenberg is one of the first in Texas to receive the high-tech treatment.

Arlene Velez-Diaz is a loving grandmother who can finally enjoy time with her grandson after suffering severe back pain for years.

"At some point, I was unable to walk! I was unable to take care of myself. I needed help getting into bed, getting out of bed, to take a shower, use the restroom. It was really depressing. I was devastated. I have a four-year-old grandson that I couldn't even have him with me on the bed, because it hurt so bad," explains Arlene.

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That's when she turned to Dr. Candice Burnette with Modern Pain Management for help. She even began creating mosaic art, a hobby to keep her mind off of severe back pain. Typical treatments like massage, physical therapy, steroid injections and surgery didn't work, so turned to an app-based platform called Intellis Spinal Cord Stimulation System. This involved getting a spinal cord stimulator implanted. Think of it as a pacemaker for the spine. 

"One of the advantages of Intelis is its ability to deliver DTM stimulation. So DTM stands for differential targeted multiplex. So this is a newer type of stimulation that studies have shown results in a significantly improved low back pain, as compared to more traditional therapy. A battery powers the device and two small wires are inserted into the spinal column. They connect to the battery and it's implanted under the skin, usually in the buttocks. It sends off signals that interfere with the pain signal, and that's what causes the release of the back pain. So this battery actually retains 95% of its capacity at nine years. (Before) sometimes we would have to change-out the battery. We haven't had to do that with this particular Intelis battery," explains Dr. Burnette.

Arlene says it took about six weeks after her procedure to tweak the device, using her remote, to get the settings just right.

"I will tell other people who are going through back pain that this is not like a miracle device where you go from 10 to zero, but it helped me around 70% of the pain I had," says Arlene. 

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The device was created for patients like Arlene, with low back pain, and with or without associated leg pain, when other treatment options don't work.

"Back pain occurs as a result of an injury to one of the structures of the lumbar spine. So that could be the nerve, disc, joints, or muscles. So with this type of stimulation, we see chronic low back pain from one or more of those structures," states Dr. Burnette.

The doctor also believes this cutting-edge treatment will cut down on patients relying on dangerous medications to relieve their pain. "We all know that the opioid epidemic is real, and it is a problem for our society. And so any options that we have that can reduce a patient's need for any medication really but especially opioid-based medication is very welcome and something that really does change the way we practice," says Dr. Burnette.

Dr. Burnette is hopeful the quality of life will increase for all of her patients, just like it did for Arlene. The device is FDA-approved and medical insurance will usually cover the cost.

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