• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Neurostimulation stops pain signals in their tracks

June 2, 2019

There was a time in her life that Valerie Nicolaison didn't think she would ever be able to take her Chihuahua, Colt, for a walk. Day in and day out for more than seven years, Valerie lived with foot pain so intense that it hobbled her. She couldn't wear shoes. Socks were problematic. Even soft sensations, like a sheet on her feet in bed, shot jolts of electric pain up her legs and through her body.

In fall 2018, however, Valerie's life underwent a dramatic transformation when she was implanted with a dorsal root ganglion stimulator at Mayo Clinic. The device blocks the pain signals moving from Valerie's feet to her brain, and it has opened up her life to a world of shoes, outings and new possibilities.

"I can take Colt on short walks now, which feels pretty amazing," Valerie says. "It's definitely still a work in progress, but I am able to do so many things now that I wasn't sure I would do again. And I know it's only going to get better."

Although spinal cord stimulators have been available for about 30 years for chronic back and leg pain, the devices have been much less effective for foot pain. Mayo Clinic was one of the first medical centers in the U.S. to offer patients dorsal root ganglion, or DRG, stimulation, says Valerie's physician Tim Lamer, M.D., in Pain Medicine.

"The problem with the traditional spinal cord stimulator is while they do a good job of covering pain in the legs and lower back, they don't do as good a job of covering pain in the feet," Dr. Lamer says. "DRG is a honed electrical signal to a specific area." Read the rest of Valerie's story. _____________________________________
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.