Device to treat chronic pain allows some patients to come off opioids

Nevro therapy offers alternative to pain killers

ORLANDO, Fla. – A bill currently making its way through the Florida Legislature is aimed at limiting opioid prescriptions to a three-day maximum, or seven days in special circumstances.

Gov. Rick Scott's announcement about the bill didn't make it clear whether it was for patients with acute pain or chronic pain. News 6 received several inquiries from concerned sufferers of chronic pain after the bill's introduction.

According to House Bill 21, the limitation is for people with acute pain, like from a broken ankle or surgery recovery.

For chronic pain, doctors will be required to see patients regularly, fully explain the risks of opioid pain medications, keep written records of all test results, perform risk assessments and complete a written prescription plan.

All steps designed to help reduce the chances of opioid abuse.
Many chronic pain patients are still concerned this may hinder their treatment. News 6 morning anchor Kirstin O'Connor found a new device that's getting results and helping patients with back and leg pain live pain-free.

After seven doctors, a solution: Nevro HF10 Therapy

Gloria Atchley's life was changed in an instant 40 years ago.

"It was a car wreck in 1976," Atchley said. "A girl was doing 60 mph in the rain, ran the red light and hit me. All the muscles and ligaments in my back were torn except for 5-inches between my shoulder blades, I'll never forget it."

Atchley was in pain all the time.

"It was very difficult, very difficult, I had virtually no life other than working and going to and from work," Atchley said. "It was pretty much drugs and muscle relaxants and things that I got, I was taking way too many of."

After years of surgeries and medications, she hoped Dr. Eugene Melvin, Jr., of the Pain Center of Central Florida would have the answers she needed.

"I had been turned down, told there was nothing we can do by seven doctors before I came into his office," Atchley said.

"I usually get a patient that already has had multiple surgeries and they're already on a pain medicine, a narcotic, an opiate, Percocet-- and that's what they're used to," Melvin said. "Every patient that's on a pain medicine that comes to me, that's because they were told there's nothing else they can do. They were told the only thing you get is a pain medicine."

Melvin said about 30 percent of his patients are on pain medications. He said they can be used safely, as long as the physician is correctly monitoring the patient, but because that's not always the case, he takes things a step further.

"I present it to them very simply, 'I'm not here to give you pain medicine, but I'm here to give you pain relief,'" said Melvin. "If I can do it another way, are you interested? If you're not, it may be difficult to treat you with just pain medicine because I have so many things to offer that if you're not accepting that, I can't accept you just being on pain medicine without trying other things."

For Atchley, after all the other options were exhausted, that meant trying out a new option--- Nevro HF10 therapy. It's a new option for back and leg pain

Melvin said leg and back pain are the No. 1 reasons patients come to see him.

How Nevro therapy works

In a simple procedure, thin insulated wires are placed in the back near the spinal cord and connected to a compact battery-operated pulse pack which is implanted just under the skin. That pack sends mild electrical pulses to calm the nerves eliminating pain.

It's not the first spinal cord stimulator, but with this one, patients don't feel what's called paresthesia, or the tingling that often comes along with this type of therapy. Patients are able to use it all the time, even while driving and sleeping.

"You don't feel that anything is going on, you just don't feel pain which is really awesome," Atchley said.

Atchley said one of the selling points of the therapy was that she could do a trial with the device before she decided to get it implanted permanently. She said having the battery pack implanted doesn't bother her at all.

"Little box or no little box, it's such a relief and it's taken so much depression and worry off," Atchley said. "I grew up watching 'Wonder Woman' and 'The 6 Million Dollar Man' and I thought, 'This is great, I've already got titanium all the way through me, woo-ee, I'm going to be electronic!'"

Learn more about Nevro therapy here.

Most people using the device are able to return to everyday activities.

"We bought a condo in Tennessee and we are redoing it," Atchley said. "I spent last week helping tear out the wall in the kitchen and reflooring the living room and dining room."

Melvin said the results for his patients are life changing.

"Nobody wears heels with pain, with back pain and leg pain, they don't do it. I saw her come in like that and it was amazing, really," Melvin said.

The Nevro device needs charged 30 minutes a day. Atchley said she does it in the car or while reading a book.

She said now, she's off her medication.

"I have been off the medication that was apparently causing problems for three months and have not taken one pill in all that time," Atchley said. "I feel very normal again."

Nevro HF10 therapy is also covered by most insurances. Melvin said sometimes patients may need to appeal to get it covered, but with many diagnosis, there are no issues.

About the Author:

Tara Evans is an executive producer and has been with News 6 since January 2013. She currently spearheads News 6 at Nine and specializes in stories with messages of inspiration, hope and that make a difference for people -- with a few hard-hitting investigations thrown in from time to time.