Melissa’s Chronic Pain Story
Melissa loved to play volleyball, hike and rock climb, and especially running track and cross country. She sometimes ran up to 40 miles a day—20 in the morning and another 20 at night.
But in 2011, an accident at her warehouse job took a toll on Melissa’s active lifestyle. The accident left her in chronic pain and unable to participate in any of her favorite activities.
Melissa’s pain started in one side of her foot and, over the course of five years, traveled to the other side and eventually up to her mid-thigh, leading to a diagnosis of CRPS of the lower limbs. She remembers sometimes experiencing numbness, and other times pain so sharp it felt like she was being stabbed. She couldn’t put on shoes or even socks and relied on a cane and wheelchair. Melissa was willing to try anything: injections, nerve blockers, medication, physical therapy and desensitizing treatments. None relieved her pain.
That’s when she learned about a new neurostimulation treatment called DRG therapy. It uses electrical pulses to stimulate a cluster of nerve cells in the spinal column called the dorsal root ganglion(s), which directly correspond to the area of the body where the pain occurs. These nerves transmit information to the brain and, when stimulated, can relieve pain.
Melissa talked to her doctor about the therapy and its potential risks. DRG therapy requires surgery, which exposes patients to the risk of possible complications including infection, swelling, bruising and possibly the loss of strength or use in an affected limb or muscle group (including paralysis) are possible. Additional risks such as undesirable changes in stimulation may occur over time. (For a complete list of possible complications associated with DRG therapy, refer to this important safety information.)
One of the benefits of the DRG neurostimulator system is that patients can be fitted with a temporary device that works like an implanted system but can be easily removed. This allowed Melissa to try out DRG therapy and make sure it worked for her pain before deciding to undergo an implant.
After Melissa’s implant, she was able to walk again. Now she has only a few limitations. “I was very skeptical, but the fact that not only did it work, but that it worked as fast as it did was truly amazing. It was such a blessing.”
Before her injury, she owned a motorcycle she loved to ride year around, in any weather. She sold it when she was suffering from chronic pain, thinking she would never be able to ride it again. Now Melissa looks forward to buying another motorcycle.
“I will stand on the rooftop shouting out about DRG therapy because no one should ever have to live with that pain,” she said.
Consult your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of neurostimulation to determine if this therapy may be right for you. This story explains the experiences of one individual, and the results are not the same for everyone. While most patients experience at least some reduction in pain, the amount of varies among individuals. Risks involved in the surgical placement and use of a neurostimulation system also vary by individual.