Spine-Tingling Relief

Newer neurostimulators ease back pain through burst or buzz.

On their first date, Donald and Linda Hoover went to the Varsity Drive-In restaurant in North Canton, Ohio, for French fries with gravy. It was the first time Linda ever tasted the regional delicacy.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Donald & Linda Hoover

From that humble beginning, Donald and Linda’s relationship evolved, and the high school sweethearts eventually married. Donald went on to work for 33 years as a superintendent for the East Ohio Gas Co., while Linda worked as a homemaker and mother.

In 1997, they retired and moved to Florida. Today, the couple still has a lot in common, including a love of cars – and working on cars in their backyard shop.

Another thing they share is debilitating back pain.

“I’ve had trouble with my back since the early 1990s,” Linda relates. “The pain was awful. It went across my back and down my left leg clear to my foot. Sometimes, it was so intense that my leg gave out and I fell. It got so bad that I had to use a walker to get around.

“When we first moved to Florida, I received shots in my back for the pain. When we moved to Inverness, I met a surgeon who performed surgery on my back, which helped for a while. But the pain started coming back, and I was miserable.

“I went to pain management where they kept giving me shots, but those really weren’t doing any good. Then, I read an article in Florida Health Care News about Dr. Fallows and decided to visit him.”

“When they put on that test stimulator, I couldn’t believe the results. The pain was instantly gone.” – Donald

The article Linda read featured pain management specialist Mark Fallows, DO, of Pain Institute of Central Florida in Lecanto. Dr. Fallows has been serving area residents since 1990. He is uniquely qualified to manage complex pain issues.

Dr. Fallows is certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians, which has certified fewer than 400 physicians nationally. Dr. Fallows is the only physician in Citrus County who is board-certified in interventional pain management.

To ease his patients’ suffering, Dr. Fallows offers comprehensive treatment for pain, employing an array of modalities. He specializes in pain management techniques, such as neurostimulator implantation, spinal infusion pumps and radiofrequency ablation. Physicians often refer patients with pain to Pain Institute of Central Florida, although the practice also takes self-referrals.

“After I told Dr. Fallows my story, he suggested a spinal cord stimulator,” Linda recalls. “He said, Hopefully, a stimulator will work for you. It did.”

Distorted Signals

A spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device that distorts pain signals going to the brain, blocking pain sensations. It is most often considered once patients begin suffering functionally due to their pain.

Older stimulator technology replaces the pain signals with a tingling sensation called a paresthesia. A newer technology, called burst stimulation, takes care of the pain but doesn’t replace it with anything, so the patient feels no sensation.

“Linda’s spinal cord stimulator allows her to use either tingle stimulation or burst stimulation since the same device has both program capabilities, and she controls the programs,” Dr. Fallows observes. “She can turn off one type of stimulation and turn on the other.”
The device also allows her to use tingle and burst stimulation simultaneously, if preferred.

“With the simultaneous mode, one type of stimulation runs and then shuts off, then the other runs and shuts off,” Dr. Fallows explains. “This happens so quickly that the nervous system cannot tell that a change has occurred. And even though the stimulation is shutting on and off, the patient perceives it to be on the entire time.”

“I like the tingling and use it continuously,” Linda says. “The burst is okay, and sometimes I go back and forth. But I find that the continuous stimulation works better, and I don’t mind the tingling. It’s almost like a massage to me.”

Decisive Experiment

Like Linda, Donald’s back has given him problems for many years. He underwent back surgery 10 years ago, which did ease his pain, but he later reinjured his back, causing the pain to flare anew.

“It was about a year and a half ago that I damaged my back again,” Donald recounts. “I was pulling an engine crane from the storage shed behind my house when my weight shifted, and I went down. When I got up, the pain was pretty bad.

“The pain level varied depending on the day and what I was doing, and sometimes I was my own worst enemy. I’d do things that aggravated my back. Many times, I’d have excruciating pain that was a 10 on a scale of one to 10. The pain would last all night, and I’d have difficulty sleeping.

“Since I got my spinal cord stimulator, I don’t have any back pain.” – Linda

“I tried everything, including acupuncture, massage and rehab. I tried shots and all kinds of pills. Nothing worked. I went from one doctor to another. I couldn’t get any help. Finally I thought, I should give Dr. Fallows a try. I decided to visit him because of the success Linda had with him.”

“Initially, we tried injections and various other modalities with Donald, but those treatments were not helpful, so I recommended a spinal cord stimulator trial,” Dr. Fallows recalls. “Just like Linda, Donald experienced great relief from the trial and is scheduled to have his permanent stimulator implanted next month.

“It is not often that we have a husband and wife team getting the same therapy because they had different issues. That shows how versatile this therapy is.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

In addition to back pain, Donald and Linda have something else in common: a love of cars.

“When they put on that test stimulator, I couldn’t believe the results,” Donald reports. “The pain was instantly gone. I was in heaven for the first time in a long time. I can’t wait for them to put on the permanent stimulator.”

Super Solution

After Linda received her stimulator, she experienced a dramatic improvement.

“On a scale of one to 10, my back pain at times was a 10 or off the charts. It was like lightning strikes,” she describes. “But since I got my spinal cord stimulator, I don’t have any back pain. It’s super. I might get a little ache now and then, but I play with the stimulator, and I can always work it out to where I’m very comfortable. The aching doesn’t hold me back from doing anything I want to do.”

“I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Fallows,” Donald adds. “And his staff is just amazing. I highly recommend Dr. Fallows and Pain Institute of Central Florida.”

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