Patient, doctor hail little-known back pain blocker
Published Saturday, May 9, 2015 10:25PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 9, 2015 11:46PM EDT
A Toronto doctor says an underused spinal implant could hold the key to relieving chronic back pain for many who suffer from the potentially debilitating condition.
Spinal neurosurgeon Dr. Mohammed Shamji says he's had great success implanting patients with a device called a neurostimulator, which is designed to block pain signals from travelling to the brain.
The Toronto Western Hospital doctor says the technology has been around for years, but is being underused.
"We have other clinicians who are not necessarily aware that the technology could provide benefit for their patients," he told CTV News.
One patient, Joanna Chow, says she used to be unable to walk due to the pain in her back. That changed when Shamji gave her the neurostimulator implant. Now, Chow can block her back pain enough that she can walk on her own.
She says it felt "amazing" after the surgery to finally have control of the pain. "I could walk for many, many blocks. I could spend up to 10 hours a day running around," she said.
The device is implanted around the spinal cord and controlled by the patient through a touchpad. It transmits an electrical signal to the brain that is supposed to cancel out the pain signals from the spine, replacing the pain feeling with a tingling sensation. The patient can adjust that tingling sensation to suit his or her comfort level.
"It has made a huge change in my life and it's something that I hope other Canadians will be fortunate enough to have access to," Chow said.
Chow says she hopes other doctors and patients will explore the possibilities of the neurostimulator so they can also benefit from its effects.
With files from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip