Diabetic Nerve Pain: Spinal Stimulator Stops


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Thirty-seven million Americans have diabetes – a condition where your body doesn’t make insulin, or doesn’t use it well. Fifty to 70 percent of people with diabetes also struggle with a serious condition called diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage that causes numbness and pain in the legs and feet. Now, a new treatment uses stimulation to treat diabetic nerve pain.

Alice Ortiz calls herself a “city girl turned country.” But living on a 10-acre farm and keeping up with cows, goats, and chickens has been tough for the past six years. Alice has diabetic neuropathy.

Alice describes her symptoms, “It started with tingling and a little bit of burning and numbness.”

But the pain got worse, making it difficult to be on her feet.

“Diabetic neuropathy took over my life. I mean, living with pain 24/7 is not, it’s not easy,” she expresses.

Ortiz was treated with medication. She tried Gabapentin, Cymbalta, and Lyrica, but nothing worked.

“Unfortunately, until recently, there really was no next step,” Mercy Medical Center pain management specialist, William Raoofi, MD, says.

(Read Full Interview)

Now, a treatment that is newly approved for diabetic neuropathy is bringing relief.

Dr. Raoofi mentions, “I describe it as like, a cardiac pacemaker, but for the nervous system.”

It’s called the Nevro HFX, a spinal cord stimulator that transmits mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord. The device is connected to a pulse generator that sends the electric current to the spine.

“It was like a light switch. The pain totally went away,” Alice exclaims.

Now, she is able to get back to her life.

A trial of the device shows 80 percent of patients have pain relief from the stimulation. Once the spinal cord stimulator is implanted in the lower back, patients recharge the battery wirelessly through the skin, by wearing a belt with a charger that refreshes the stimulator battery. Spinal cord stimulation has been approved for other conditions like back pain but has only been approved for a year for diabetic neuropathy.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer: Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5135

BACKGROUND: Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes. High blood sugar (glucose) can injure nerves throughout the body. Diabetic neuropathy most often damages nerves in the legs and feet. Diabetic neuropathy is a serious diabetes complication that may affect as many as 50% of people with diabetes. But you can often prevent diabetic neuropathy or slow its progress with consistent blood sugar management and a healthy lifestyle.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20371580

DIAGNOSING: There are four types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal. Symptoms for peripheral include tingling, numbness, and/or burning. Symptoms for autonomic include bloating, constipation, heartburn, low blood pressure, and/or faster heartbeat. Symptoms for proximal include pain (usually on one side) in the thighs, hips, or buttocks. Symptoms for focal include double vision, eye pain, and/or paralysis on one side of the face. Your health care provider can usually diagnose diabetic neuropathy by performing a physical exam and carefully reviewing your symptoms and medical history. Along with the physical exam, your health care provider may perform or order specific tests to help diagnose diabetic neuropathy, such as filament testing, sensory testing, nerve conduction testing, electromyography, autonomic testing.

(Sources: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-neuropathy


NEW TECHNOLOGY: A spinal cord stimulator is like a pacemaker for diabetic neuropathy pain. It consists of two parts: a small pulse generator that is implanted under your skin, and two small wire leads that are placed near specific nerves along your spine. These work together to block nerve pain. The technology has been used for decades to treat back and leg pain. However, until recently, it had not been well studied for treating neuropathy of the feet caused by diabetes.

(Source: https://www.dukehealth.org/blog/when-diabetic-neuropathy-made-him-miserable-spinal-cord-stimulator-got-him-back-his-feet


Dan Collins



If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for William Raoofi, MD, pain management specialist

Read the entire Q&A