Pain-Free Without Pills

CLIVE, Iowa  --  You’ve probably read startling statistics on opioid-related deaths in America and heard horror stories of people hooked on heroin as a result of becoming addicted to prescription painkillers. Lawmakers and substance abuse counselors agree on the term “opioid epidemic,” but the fact remains that 100,000,000 Americans need something to alleviate their chronic pain.

A practice in Clive claims to use new technology and proven methods to wean patients off of drugs while giving them something they have never experienced: relief.

“What we’re finding is even [primary care] physicians have no idea what we do,” said Dr. Jolene Smith of Pain Specialists of Iowa. “When these patients come to us and we’re able to get them off of their opioids, [their doctors] are astonished."

Patients like Nancy Seymour, who suffers from arthritis and has artificial knees and shoulders, say the relief is truly remarkable.

Kelsey Barbour, who suffers from tumors in her abdomen, agrees.

“[The procedure was] life-changing," she said. "I mean, it’s amazing.”

Kevin Burton, whose legs were crushed in a car accident, admits he was skeptical.

“When [Dr. Daniel Moyse] first brought [spinal cord stimulation] up, I thought he was crazy.”

Dr. Smith explained some breakthrough methods to lessen or eliminate pain. Each patient in this story received the same approach: a spinal cord stimulator. Think of pain as an electrical signal--it travels along the spinal cord to the brain. A specialist can implant a small disc that sends a competing signal through two wires that attach to the spinal cord. The stimulator scrambles the pain message, essentially making the brain think the pain is gone.

Another patient, Jerry Campbell, suffered from debilitating back pain. His only relief came from high doses of high-powered opioid pills.

“I’d actually talked to other specialists, had actually talked to a back surgeon, and they said there was nothing they could do,” he said.

Dr. Smith then implanted a spinal cord stimulator.

“I was out of that recovery room in less than 30 minutes because I wanted to get going. I wanted to get back into my life,” said Campbell. “When I come and see [Dr. Smith] now, I just give her a big hug, and when I see the nurses we all smile and laugh. I’m happy again. I’m not just happy, I’m enthusiastic.”