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YOUR HEALTH: Oh my aching back!

A little device that's bringing big relief to those suffering with chronic back pain

HOUSTON — You know someone with a pain in the back.

It's probably you.

80% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetime.

Now, a new device is allowing patients to take back control while reducing their pain.

It's helping Arlene Vélez Díaz of Texas who likes to stay busy.

But chronic back pain caused by a fall made her had to set aside her passion.

"I literally thought I won't be able to walk again," she remembered.

"It was that bad."

She tried physical therapy, medications, injections, even surgery, nothing got rid of her back pain for good.

Then Arlene went to pain management physician Dr. Candice Burnette

After a series of different treatments, Dr. Burnette suggested Differential Target Multiplex or DTM spinal cord stimulation, a neurostimulator placed under the patients' skin.

"It involves placing small wires in the spinal column and those wires send out a signal that interferes with the brain's ability to perceive pain," explained Dr. Burnette.

A study found 80% of patients with the DTM therapy achieved 50% or greater reduction in the chronic low back pain."

This is compared to 51% of patients with conventional spinal cord stimulation. 

Arlene got the device implanted in December 2020 and is feeling a lot better now.

"I just regained my life back."

Patients can do a week-long trial before they have the device implanted. 

This option tends to be for those who have tried other treatments for back pain that did not work.

Studies continue into its effectiveness.

Whose got the pain?

Most back pain is caused by muscle strain, injury, or spinal deformity, but can be caused by a systemic or rheumatic illness. 

It is considered chronic pain when it is lasts for more than three months and can develop anywhere from the neck to the lower spine. 

The exact cause of pain may be difficult to identify because it can originate in soft tissue, bone, discs, or nerves. 

People who are more likely to develop low back pain are those who smoke or work at jobs that require repetitive heavy lifting or involve vibration from vehicles or industrial machinery. 

Sports such as cross-country skiing, as well as driving a vehicle for a long time can also cause back pain. 

Conditions that are more prevalent in the elderly such as spinal osteoarthritis or spondylitis and compression fractures can also cause pain. 

Consequently, older people are at higher risk for back pain.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.