For years, Catherine Vonderhude lived each day, each hour, and each minute in pain. "It's like a thunderbolt of pain that goes across my body," she said. The pain started in Catherine's neck, and then moved to her cervical region. Due to extreme pain, she had difficulty using use her arms and was forced to give up her interior design business. She lived on pain medication and steroid shots. One day the pain became so intense she forgot where she was.
"I ended up in the subway yards. The motorman didn't notice I was still on the train. I had been slumped over," she said.
Then she heard about neurostimulation to zap her pain away, altering pain signals before they reach the brain.
Dr. Neel Mehta, Interventional Pain Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, explained, "It's like having an injection, except there's no medication. There are wires. There's no incision, no scars."
The system is made up of a small generator and leads. The leads are attached outside the spinal cord. The generator produces mild electrical pulses which interfere with the pain signals and replace the pain with massaging and tingling sensation.
"It's not a cure, and it's not an antibiotic, but it has given her life back, and that's what she wanted to get her life back," said Dr. Mehta.
Before the stimulator, Catherine says her pain was a 10 out of 10. Today she tells us it's a three, a number and a feeling that she thought she would never experience again.
The best candidates for the device have pain going into their arms or legs, back, or neck. The neurostimulator can also help with spinal stenosis, chronic abdominal pain, and certain types of headaches. The stimulator does not work for 10 to 20 percent of patients.