For 18 months, Julie Paulson suffered excruciating head pain – despite numerous tests, consultation with multiple specialists and trying various treatments. Then Dr. Scott Glaser, a board-certified interventional pain specialist, treated her with an occipital nerve stimulator that was surgically implanted at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. She’s been relatively pain-free ever since.
“The procedure has made a world of difference,” the 48-year-old Clarendon Hills resident says. “When I start feeling pain, I just change the setting on my stimulator using a remote control I hold to my skin. I recharge it every few weeks from a unit the manufacturer supplies. Unless I need it reset, I can do everything without having to visit the doctor.”
A painful past
In April 2008, Paulson began having severe, migraine-type headaches that landed her in the emergency room. Her symptoms were treated and she was sent home. But as the pain continued, Paulson sought other opinions. She even had a cervical fusion, which cured her arm discomfort, but not her upper neck pain and headaches, which was her primary complaint. She lived on pain medication and trips to the emergency room for additional intravenous pain medications and steroids. Fortunately, she had a strong support system, including a good friend, neighbor and a caring husband.
“My pain was like a tornado. I never knew when it was going to hit, and the pain never really went away,” Paulson says. “I couldn’t drive my kids anywhere because if I had one of these headaches, I literally could not open my eyes without vomiting.”
In desperation, Paulson was finally referred to Dr. Glaser. Based on the nature and location of her pain, Paulson had procedures aimed at reducing pain related to her upper cervical joints and nerves, the most common cause of this type of pain. Unfortunately, her symptoms did not respond. That’s when Dr. Glaser talked to Paulson about an electric nerve stimulator.
New technology, new hope
"Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves to treat pain is one of the most significant developments in medicine in recent history,” Dr. Glaser says. "One of the most exciting aspects of this treatment is the ability of the patient to take it for a test drive, so to speak, before making a final decision.”
Paulson underwent a weeklong trial in October 2009 and found a remarkable amount of relief. The permanent stimulator was implanted a month later.
“Julie’s not pain-free, but she has a significant reduction in pain,” Dr. Glaser says. “She’s gone back to work and that’s what this is all about. It’s more than just relieving pain. It’s helping patients get their life back.”
The goal of interventional pain management is to treat pain safely and effectively, improve quality of life and reduce reliance on narcotic pain medications and their associated risks,” Dr. Glaser explains. "As a board-certified specialist in interventional pain management, I am trained to diagnose and treat the causes of pain through minimally invasive procedures.”
Interventional pain management procedures range from small joint injections to percutaneous disc decompression and nerve stimulation procedures.
"Our ability to treat and manage pain has improved dramatically over the past decade as our knowledge of the causes of pain and technology improves,” Dr. Glaser says. “People are no longer faced with a choice between a lifetime of pain and medications or invasive surgery and all the known complications including, unfortunately, the worsening of pain."
If you or someone you know is suffering with pain, call 866-533-7968.