Blood, Sweat, & Years

After decades of back pain and two bad surgeries, a modern treatment deliver

In 1971, just as David Hughes was embarking on a 44-year accounting career, he injured his lower back in a car crash. Over time, his back pain became progressively worse, even severe. 

Forty years later, David finally sought relief through back surgery. That 2011 procedure failed, however, so David endured another unsuccessful surgery two years later. Then, last January, the pain flared up like never before. 

“The pain was unbearable,” David laments. “It started at the base of my back and traveled down my legs into my feet. It was at times both stabbing and aching. It ran a good eight, nine and even 10 on a scale of one to 10. It was so bad that I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes before I had to sit down.” 

Wanting to avoid a third surgery, David asked his primary care physician for advice. The doctor suggested that David see a pain management specialist and provided several recommendations. Among them was Lora L. Brown, MD, a fellowship-trained interventional pain specialist at TruWell Health. David had heard good things about Dr. Brown, so he scheduled an appointment. 

“Mr. Hughes had been suffering for years with chronic pain from severe degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,” Dr. Brown reports. “He had intense back pain with activity and limitations standing and walking. He had tried numerous treatments, including physical therapy, pain medications, epidural and facet injections — but nothing helped.” 

With other interventions bringing David no relief, Dr. Brown recommended a next-level treatment: spinal cord stimulation. 

“Spinal cord stimulation delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord that block the input of pain signals before they reach the brain,” Dr. Brown explains. 

“In the past, patients with implanted stimulators felt a tingling sensation where the pain used to be. Nowadays, with the new technology and types of electrical programming, frequencies and amplitudes available, spinal cord stimulators block the pain without the tingling sensation. Patients simply feel the absence of pain.” 

One advantage of spinal cord stimulation is that patients get to “test drive” the treatment before making a commitment to it. 

“Before we implant a stimulator, we put temporary leads in the epidural space through a needle,” Dr. Brown informs. “Patients live with an external system for four or five days to see if it brings significant pain relief. If the trial is successful, we implant the permanent device. 

“There’s no surgery on the spine, so this treatment is very safe. The trial is an outpatient procedure performed in the office, and the stimulator is permanently implanted in a surgery center with the patient under twilight sedation. There’s no general anesthesia needed.” 

David’s spinal cord stimulator has made a dramatic difference in his condition. 

“My pain level now is maybe a one or two, and that’s about it,” he enthuses. “I can stand, which my wife likes because I can do dishes now. And I’m getting better. I’m doing physical therapy to build back the muscles that withered when I couldn’t walk or exercise. 

“Dr. Brown is very knowledgeable. What I appreciate about her most is she’s on the top of her profession, and she discusses everything with you. I highly recommend her.”

Florida Health Care News


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    • TruWell Health

      TruWell Health is located in a professional medical building in downtown St. Petersburg. There is free parking and free valet service. Our office is elegant, warm, comfortable and modern, and we utilize the latest technology... Read More

    • Lora L. Brown, MD

      Lora L. Brown, MD, is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and American Board of Pain Medicine. She is also a fellow of the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians. Dr. Brown earned her bachelor’s degree cum laude from th... Read More