Florence Fialkowski, a grandparent from Toms River, has always enjoyed an independent, active lifestyle. Even after retiring from her job as a secretary at Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1986, Florence has always maintained her busy, on-the-go routine. Incredibly, Florence has also suffered for nearly 10 years with chronic back pain.
“I never had any accident or injury to my back, it just slowly started to hurt more and more every day. The pain eventually grew so strong that I realized that I needed help. So I went to my primary care physician who sent me for an MRI.”
The MRI of Florence’s spine showed severe spinal stenosis. Her doctor explained that it is a narrowing of the spinal canal—the area the spinal cord and nerves travel through. When this area becomes narrower, the spinal cord and nerves can get pinched and squeezed causing pain.
Florence’s physician put her on a regimen of Tylenol and physical therapy. After a few weeks and no noticeable relief in symptoms, her physician suggested she consult with Dr. Dharam Mann at Garden State Medical Center. Dr. Mann specializes in interventional pain medicine, a field where physicians are specialty trained to treat patients with acute and chronic pain
The leading cause of spinal stenosis is wear and tear on the spine due to aging,” says Dr. Mann. “In fact, the most common direct cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, where the cartilage that cushions joints starts to degenerate due to age.” This meant that Florence’s condition was irreversible, and treatment would be geared towards treating the symptoms of her condition, to help manage her pain.
Florence and Dr. Mann discussed several different treatment options and Dr. Mann began treating Florence’s pain with epidural steroid injections. These types of injections are commonly used for her condition because the steroids are able to reduce spinal cord inflammation which relieves the pressure on the nerves, alleviating the pain. However, the amount and length of relief varies among patients and after a few rounds of treatment which provided only a few weeks of relief, Dr. Mann suggested a minimally-invasive treatment option called a spinal cord stimulator (SCS).
“A spinal cord stimulator is an implantable system that delivers electrical impulses to nerves in the spinal cord,” says Dr. Mann. “These impulses are able to mask pain signals before they reach the brain. The device is proven to provide significant long term pain relief and reduce or eliminate the need for pain medications. As an intervention for chronic back and/or leg pain, spinal cord stimulation can be an effective alternative or adjunct treatment to other therapies that have failed to manage pain on their own.”
Florence had her spinal cord stimulator implanted in April of this year. The procedure was performed in Dr. Mann’s out-patient surgery center, and Florence was discharged within an hour. Despite minor soreness near the implant site, Florence reported 100% back pain relief since having her procedure.