David Bowles: Spinal Cord Stimulation for Pain

"A simple thing like going from the outdoor heat into air conditioning used to cause me excruciating pain. Now I’ll be able to enjoy simple pleasures like shopping and swimming in my pool."

“I trust Dr. Kotecha fully with my life,” said Florida resident David Bowles. “In fact, I flew 1,200 miles so he could perform my surgery.” Since 2003, neurosurgeon Nilesh Kotecha, MD, has virtually rebuilt David’s neck and spine—most recently with spinal cord stimulation implants. “I believe I would be paraplegic if it weren’t for him,” David said.

David, who is 54 and originally from Michigan, has suffered from severe chronic pain for most of his adult life. In his youth, David was a bull rider and enjoyed motorcycle racing, competitive skiing, and other “daredevil” sports. Later, he became a registered nurse, but an injury while working with a combative mental health patient caused David his first of three mini-strokes—resulting in nerve damage, pain and numbness.

This, in combination with rheumatoid arthritis and multiple herniated discs, substantially affected David’s quality of life. Through a series of spine surgeries, he maintained the ability to move and walk, and he had limited control of his hands and fingers. But his pain and weakness remained, and he chose not to use pain medication. David moved to Florida to take advantage of the warm weather, but kept in contact with Dr. Kotecha.

In 2009, Dr. Kotecha told David about Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS), a therapy that has been used for more than 40 years to help people control chronic pain through electrical impulses. An implantable pulse generator (IPG) is inserted under the skin, typically through outpatient surgery. Attached to the IPG are insulated wires that deliver electrical impulse therapy along the spinal cord. Following surgery, the IPG is programmed, and the patient can control the intensity of the therapy, or turn it off, using a small wireless remote. “Pain is an electrical signal that travels along the spinal cord to the brain,” Dr. Kotecha explained.

“In SCS, electrical impulses are sent to specific locations on the spinal cord, masking the pain signals and replacing them with a smooth, tingling sensation called paresthesia. SCS can provide long-lasting pain relief. For David Bowles, it will also improve his neurological functions.”

At his first post-surgical visit to Dr. Kotecha, David received a good report. “I am really looking forward to going back to the Florida sunshine and living my life,” David said. “A simple thing like going from the outdoor heat into an air conditioned store used to cause me excruciating pain, because my nervous system couldn’t make the adjustment. Now I’ll be able to enjoy simple pleasures like shopping and swimming in my pool. I thank God and this phenomenal surgeon for giving that back to me.”

Exercise can help prevent future back pain by improving your posture, strengthening your back and improving flexibility.