ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Tens of millions of people in the United States endure daily chronic back and leg pain, but imagine being able to treat that pain with the touch of a button. A doctor in Eagle River says she is making that possible with new technology that delivers pain therapy without invasive surgery or the use of opioids.
Dr. Andrea Trescot is performing this procedure for patients in Alaska. She says it's all about targeting pain signals at the source.
"I'm the lead author on one of the national guidelines of opioids, and I think there is a role for opioids. However they don't fix anything," said Dr. Trescot. "They work by dulling the brain. This device actually prevents the pain signals from getting to the brain."
It's called the Stimwave Freedom SCS System. It's the world's smallest device of it's kind, implanted into the spine and controlled through a wireless battery device or your smartphone. It's also a minimally invasive procedure.
One of Dr. Trescot's patients, Carrie Miller, was an active Alaskan, an avid hiker, runner and martial artist before a series of back injuries left her basically bed-ridden for two years.
"I was really weak. I had to walk with a cane to stabilize me," said Miller. "I couldn't walk up and down stairs. My husband would carry me."
After several surgeries, steroid injections, medications and more, Miller says nothing was working. She had reached her breaking point.
"The pain in my legs just kept getting worse and worse and worse, and finally my surgeon was just like, 'I don't know what else to do...' and just sent me away," Said Miller. "I was so depressed, I just couldn't do anything."
That is until she met Dr. Trescot. Miller has been using the Stimwave device for about six months now. She says she just about gave up hope on leading a normal life again, before having the procedure done. Miller says she saw results immediately.
"I woke up from that, and I thought that I was dreaming. I did not believe that I could feel my legs. Before that, they were always asleep," said Miller. "So now I'm in physical therapy. I'm doing pool therapy and it's slowly making me stronger so I can go back to work and be able to be part of society."
Not only is the device wireless, but you can also control it with an iPad, smartphone, or Apple Watch.
"So it's allowed a tremendous amount of variability and being able to tailor make the frequency and the stimulation to exactly what the patient needs, and allows them to be able to switch and change between programs, because people's pain is not exactly the same all day every day," said Dr. Trescot.
Carrie Miller only wishes she had known about the procedure sooner. "Don't let chronic pain destroy your life. You can do something about it before you lose your career before you lose your abilities to not even be part of society."
Miller says she hopes to someday become an advocate for chronic pain patients.
Dr. Trescot is now training doctors all over the state and the world to perform this procedure, so more chronic pain patients can experience opioid-free pain relief. However, she says it isn't for everyone and she always advises having diagnostic injections first, before moving forward with a device that fits the patient's needs.
Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.