Val’s Chronic Pain Story

Val’s Chronic Pain Story

A self-described “domestic engineer” with “2.5 kids” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to having one child in college), Valerie kept up a brisk pace before being stricken with chronic pain. Besides doing the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for her family, she took care of her garden and the lawn while squeezing in trips to the gym each week. “I had fun in everything I did,” she recalls. “Life was great.” 

The beginning of her pain was anything but dramatic. Valerie (“Val” to her friends) was holding a garage sale when she started having an ache in her hip and back. In the days that followed, neither rest nor over-the-counter medication provided her with relief. She began searching for a doctor just before she and her husband were to take a vacation in Alaska to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Val postponed her search to take the trip, which turned into a pain-filled ordeal that was cut short because of her discomfort. 

When Val returned home, she was diagnosed as having a spine problem, which would need surgery to repair. One surgery was followed by another, and afterwards she entered a cycle in which misery was routine. “My days became a blur of pain, tears, and medication,” she says. “I took medicine that didn’t help the pain but made me just not care about it or my kids. I was in a fog.” Unable to sleep and barely able to function, Val became withdrawn as her husband began taking over family duties. 

Finally, Val’s doctor told her that neurostimulation might help her. He described how neurostimulation works to block pain signals. He also explained the benefits and risks. (Risks associated with the procedure and/or use of a neurostimulation system include infection, swelling, bruising, undesirable changes in stimulation, and the loss of strength or use in an affected limb or muscle group (e.g., paralysis). For a complete list of possible complications associated with neurostimulation, refer to this important safety information.)

Val was less than enthusiastic. The thought of having another surgery made her cry, and she was worried about having an implanted device. Nonetheless, Val agreed to try neurostimulation for a few days during a temporary evaluation. She says, “I was asked to follow my daily routine so I could assess the therapy but to avoid certain activities, especially those that would cause me to bend or twist. It was difficult at first, but in the end I couldn’t wait to have the stimulator implanted.” 

Since then, her pain has greatly diminished. Now she uses about a quarter of the pain medication she did before, helping her to clear her head and return to being the person she once was. These days, she cooks, cleans house, and mows her lawn, and recently she went hiking and camping for the first time in years. 

“I have a sense of control over my pain,” she says. “My rough days are better than my best days before I had my neurostimulator. I am so looking forward to the future.” 

Consult your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of neurostimulation and determine if this therapy is right for you. The story above explains the experiences of an individual who has received a neurostimulation system to manage chronic pain of the trunk and/or limbs. These results with neurostimulation are specific to this individual. While most patients experience at least some reduction in pain, the amount of pain relief that individuals experience varies. The surgical placement and use of a neurostimulation system pose risks, the occurrence of which also varies by individual.