Liberation From Back Pain

Seven years ago, John Chambers began an emotional odyssey when he developed serious pain in his lower back. The retired security director didn’t suffer a precipitating injury he could remember. He just suddenly found himself unable to perform some of the simplest daily activities.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Without pain, John can spend hours working on his mini-bike.

“There was no injury,” he confirms. “My back started to bother me. It could have been the result of my past life. I was in the military and in martial arts for fifty-four years. It could have been either of those things or a combination.
“The pain was severe. Grocery shopping became difficult for me. I’d get halfway through shopping, and my wife would need to take over. It was tough for me to stand for any length of time. If I tried to do things around the house and help my wife, like wash the dishes, the pain got so severe, I’d have to sit down before I could finish.”
At the time the pain started, John was very active, especially outdoors. He had a motorcycle, a camper and a fishing boat.
“I had to give it all up because I couldn’t even hook the boat trailer to my car to go fishing,” he relates. “Then, the pain got progressively worse.”
At that point, John was in agony with his back, so he sought the care of pain management specialist Mark Fallows, DO, of Pain Institute of Central Florida. John knew Dr. Fallows from previous treatment for pain following shoulder surgery, so he believed the doctor could help him.
Dr. Fallows is uniquely qualified to manage complex pain issues for area residents, whom he has served since 1990. He is certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP). ABIPP has certified fewer than 400 physicians nationally. Further, Dr. Fallows is the only physician in Citrus County who is board certified in interventional pain management.
“Initially, Dr. Fallows gave me epidural shots and put me on painkillers,” states John. “He told me about a device he implants in your back that sends signals to your brain to tell it you’re not in pain. It’s called a spinal cord stimulator. The problem was it caused some serious tingling in the legs. He didn’t think I could handle that.
“Then, Dr. Fallows told me there was a new device coming out that did the same thing except there was no tingling, if I could handle the pain until it was approved by the FDA. I told him I wanted to wait. Seven years after my pain started, the new device was approved, and I was one of Dr. Fallows’ first patients to get one. It has made a world of difference in my life.”

Burst Stimulation

Dr. Fallows reports that spinal cord stimulation has been in existence for 50 years. The first stimulator was introduced in 1967, and the technology used in the devices has continuously improved over the years.
“We went from stimulators with one contact on the spine to models with two contacts to four contacts to eight contacts to sixteen,” notes the doctor. “There are even twenty-four-contact systems. Still, those advancements didn’t make as much of a difference as the most recent breakthrough, which is tingling-free stimulation.”
During its first 47 years of existence, spinal cord stimulation relied on the tingling sensation to cover up patients’ pain, elaborates Dr. Fallows. That sensation is called paresthesia. However, many patients found that sensation too strong and couldn’t tolerate it.
“The new stimulators have very little sensation, or none at all,” he continues. “The technology is called burst stimulation. It takes care of vast amounts of the patients’ pain, but doesn’t replace it with anything. Previously, we tried to mask the pain with another sensation. We’re not masking it anymore, and that makes patients much happier.”
During a study, patients with traditional stimulators were asked to try the new technology and compare the two. Seventy to 80 percent preferred burst over the traditional stimulators. Another advantage of the new stimulator is it does a better job of relieving back pain.
“The burst stimulator is seventy percent more effective than the old unit at reducing pain,” verifies Dr. Fallows. “That’s a huge increase. If there were a treatment in medicine that improved outcomes by twenty percent, we’d think that was incredible. Here, we have a technology that’s seventy percent better. That’s phenomenal!”

Fruitful Odyssey

Seven years after his severe pain began, John finally got his burst spinal cord stimulator. He was amazed by the relief it gave him.
“Before I got the spinal cord stimulator, my pain level ran consistently between a seven and a nine,” he discloses. “Now, it’s zero. I don’t have any more pain in my lower back. It’s just not there anymore.”
“At Pain Institute of Central Florida, I offer comprehensive treatments to ease people’s suffering,” declares Dr. Fallows. “I employ an array of modalities and specialize in a variety of pain management techniques, such as neurostimulator implantation, spinal infusion pumps, radiofrequency ablation and even medical cannabis. Physicians often refer their patients who have unrelenting pain to my practice. I also welcome individuals who seek out my help on their own.”

“If it wasn’t for him and the Pain Institute of Central Florida staff, I’d probably be in a wheelchair today.”-John

“After the implant surgery, Dr. Fallows took me completely off my pain pills. He weaned me off in just a few weeks, and that worked fine.”
John is back to being active again. Because of his age – he’s 80 now – he decided not to buy another boat, but he still finds time to do some angling. He’s also involved in a building project that’s quite demanding.
“Now, I go fishing, work on my hobbies and do other things I used to do,” he enthuses. “I’m a Shriner, and I’m building a mini-bike from scratch to ride in the parades. I’ve got it on the bench in my workshop, and I go out there and work on it a couple hours a day.
“I’m able to go shopping again with my wife, and I can stand at the sink and do the dishes. Now, I can do things like that around the house.”
John was willing to wait to get the advanced stimulator technology. Throughout his odyssey, he never lost faith in his physician and continued to believe Dr. Fallows would someday relieve his pain.
“I trust Dr. Fallows with my life,” he says. “If it wasn’t for him and the Pain Institute of Central Florida staff, I’d probably be in a wheelchair today. When
Dr. Fallows placed my spinal cord stimulator implant, he did it right!”

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