Indianapolis - A new device is providing relief for patients with back pain.
Sherry Sommerkamp had degenerative disc disease, undergoing two spinal fusions and steroid shots, yet she was still confined to the couch. Now, she's back on the dance floor.
"I've always loved to dance," Sommerkamp said. "It was to the point where I stopped doing everything. Anything that required any physical effort, bending."
Back pain kept Sherry, who is in her 50's, a spectator until she opted for the latest generation of neuro-stimulators from Medtronic. Implanted devices deliver electrical pulses to stimulate the area of her spinal cord that correlates with her pain.
"The stimulator stimulates those fibers, so the brain actually interprets those pleasure sensations instead of the painful sensations," Dr. Jonathan Gentile of the Indiana Spine Group. "Sort of overrides the pain."
"It tingles and it tingles and I almost think somebody could see my body vibrating," Sommerkamp said. "That's a good term, vibrating."
Patients like Sherry have control with a TV remote-like device, which allows them to adjust the area and the amount of pulse.
"You can stimulate just the lumbar area, then the second area is called the sacral, which is a little lower," Sommerkamp said. "The third area is the tailbone, which goes even lower."
Dr. Gentile says the smaller device is more comfortable when implanted, the rechargeable batteries last for weeks, and the lifetime of the device has doubled to ten years before a patient is back in the hospital for a replacement.
"They will lose a lot less medication," Dr. Gentile said. "The big thing is they can cut down on the narcotics and the pain medicines they take and be more active, like Sherry."
Sherry says now she is about 85 percent pain free.
"It has been literally night and day difference," she said.