At Midlands Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery, our goal has always been simple – offer innovative, high-quality, comprehensive care that allows patients to get back to their daily routine as quickly and as safely as possible. Pain Management Physician, Jenna W. Lambeth, M.D., had that exact goal in mind when treating one of her patients with peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) earlier this year. Ashley Copeland came to Dr. Lambeth after her low back pain became too much to bear. We interviewed both Dr. Lambeth and Ashley to get a better understanding of Ashley’s condition and how peripheral nerve stimulation has changed her life.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your condition/pain and what led you to reaching out to Dr. Lambeth for an appointment.
AC : Six years ago, an injury resulted in multi-level disc herniations. In the past three years, my lower body symptoms started to get worse and eventually became unbearable. My hips and lower back were in pain and inflamed. I started having tingling and numbness in my groin, leg, and foot. If I was walking or standing on my feet for more than 5 minutes, my leg would swell, and purple blotches would appear on my lower leg and foot. There were other symptoms and pain that led me to visit with numerous doctors all over the southeast region with little to no relief. I received multiple diagnoses including: Cauda Equina, disc problems, facet problems, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Arthritis, and pelvic problems. Some doctors even brushed off my pain by saying “it was in my head”. Eventually, my pain became so severe that my family doctor referred me to Midlands Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, where I was recommended to get an appointment with Dr. Lambeth.
Q: What type of treatments did you try before peripheral nerve stimulation? How did you decide that PNS was the best treatment plan?
AC: I had tried facet injections, physical therapy, bursa injections, nerve blocks, and numerous medications to try and help alleviate my pain symptoms. However, none of these had a lasting effect.
JL: I talked with Ashley about all the previous treatments that she had tried and understood that they were unsuccessful. I knew we’d need a more permanent option to help control her pain given how long she had been struggling. It was apparent that Ashley’s pain was coming from her facet joints (in her low back) based on our discussion, her exam and her imaging. An ablation would probably have helped her facet joints, but this procedure is usually repeated once a year. Because Ashley is so young, I really wanted to give her an option that would provide a more permanent solution for pain relief.
Q: What made you feel comfortable with Dr. Lambeth’s suggestion of peripheral nerve stimulation as a solution to your pain?
AC : First, and foremost, Dr. Lambeth listened to every word I said; she validated the pain I was experiencing. We tried a couple of injections before moving to PNS but they were unsuccessful. Dr. Lambeth explained that she thought peripheral nerve stimulation would be a better option than ablation. She thoroughly explained how PNS would benefit me based on my injury and current symptoms and expressed her concern with doing an ablation at my age. To be honest, I was a little hesitant at first because I was unfamiliar with peripheral nerve stimulation and was unsure of the recovery process, but after being educated by Dr. Lambeth, I knew she wouldn’t lead me in the wrong direction. And, she never did!!
Q: What can a patient expect when coming in to receive peripheral nerve stimulation?
JL: Usually with peripheral nerve stimulation, I do a nerve block first to determine which nerve is the problem. Once I have determined that, I can implant the stimulator near the nerve causing pain. I use local anesthetic to numb the area and an X-ray machine or ultrasound to help place the device. I test the device with the company representative to make sure it is in the correct position and then tape everything to the patient’s skin. The procedure usually only takes 15 – 20 minutes and doesn’t require any anesthesia.
AC: It was way easier and faster than expected. It was actually much better and less painful than some of the injections I had received. Representatives from SPRINT [a company that manufactures peripheral nerve stimulators] were there the entire time. After the procedure they taught my husband and me how to use the PNS and take care of it. I didn’t expect the SPRINT representative to stay in contact with me, but she gave me her cell phone number and checked in on me weekly.
Q: What has the recovery process been like since PNS?
AC: There are truly no words to describe it! It’s been a miracle…a lifesaver!! I’ve been in physical therapy since I had the PNS removed to help strengthen my lower body. It’s actually been the most challenging part of the process. Six years of decreased activity has really affected my muscles, or lack thereof, so it is helping me improve improper posture, range of motion, and allowing me to regain muscle. I would recommend physical therapy to anyone that has peripheral nerve stimulation.
Q: What would you say to any patients who are nervous or skeptical about PNS?
JL : Knowledge is key when making big decisions about your health. I try to answer as many questions as possible while patients are with me in the office. I also provide patients with a SPRINT brochure so that they can do some research at home. We even have models of the device in the clinic so I can show patients what it looks like if they have any concerns. I also have access to company representatives who can call and give patients more details on any specific questions they may have based on their daily activities.
AC: Just DO IT!!! I would do anything I had to in order to get peripheral nerve stimulation.
Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to share about your PNS experience?
AC: Dr. Lambeth, thank you for listening, caring, and never pressuring me to do one treatment over another. I appreciate your compassion and support. Thank you for giving me my life back! I can now go shopping with my daughter, play baseball with my son, and have date nights with my husband again! There really aren’t enough ‘thanks’ to truly show my (and my family’s) gratitude for helping me get back to living life.
If you are interested in learning more about peripheral nerve stimulation, go to www.sprtherapeutics.com. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lambeth to discuss the possibility of PNS, call Midlands Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery at 803-256-4107, or visit www.MidOrthoNeuro.com.