Special Reports

Pain relief using smart phone technology

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A new device that uses the same technology as some smart phones is now on the market and it is proving to help relieve back and leg pain.

It's actually an upgrade to a device called a neurostimulator. The problem with the former devices is they wouldn't adjust on their own when patients changed positions. This new device changes automatically.

I talked with a Pottstown woman and her family about how it's working for her.]

35-year-old Mandy Martensen's life is wrapped up in the Boy Scouts. She's a troop committee member in Philadelphia, her husband is an Eagle Scout, and their son Lex is a Cub Scout, which he thoroughly enjoys.

"I like that we go on camping trips because this one, it was like this huge fort," Lex told Action News.

But until recently Mandy couldn't keep up. She suffers from widespread pain caused by fibromyalgia and other problems. The pain affected her back, legs and even arms.

"That progressed through the years and it got to the point, it was unbearable," said Mandy.

She tried numerous medications. They either didn't work or made her too sleepy to function. So Mandy decided to try a new kind of neurostimulator called the RestoreSensor.

Dr. Jeffery Rowe of Main Line Spine took us into the procedure room to show us how it works. Two leads are threaded up the spinal canal. The neurostimulator will send electrical impulses through the leads that block pain.

The device is implanted where a patient's back pocket would be. Dr. Rowe says the older neurostimulators work, but they are positional. Meaning, if you change positions, "the stimulation may become much too intense or it may dissipate completely and the pain will come back," he said.

So patients had to use a remote constantly to control the device. But with the new model Mandy has, once it's set, it will automatically adjust to different positions, similar to the way a smart phone automatically adjusts to being moved.

"If I lay on my left side, it will adjust," she said. "There is a little 2-second wait and then that left side functionality and level will come on. If I flip over onto my back, same thing."

And as for her pain, she says it's nearly gone, allowing her to be more active.

"I love it, I absolutely love it," said Mandy. "I wish we would have found it sooner."

It's a change even her son has noticed.

"Because usually she wouldn't really travel," said Lex. "She wouldn't really do much but now with scouts and stuff, it really helped."

Mandy says she uses the device for pain from fibromyalgia. But Dr. Rowe says it is primarily used to help patients with pain stemming from other problems. Anyone who has back and leg pain that has lasted longer than 6 months, including patients who have had back surgery to fix a problem but are still having pain may be candidates.

Before anyone has the device implanted, they undergo a three-day trial where they put the leads in but use an external device to make sure it helps before committing to the procedure.

The device is FDA-approved and covered by most health insurance plans.

LINK: RestoreSensor Neurostimulator

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