MELBOURNE, Fla. – More than 130 people die due to an opioid overdose every day in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and many of those deaths caused by from prescription pain killers.
Due to the opioid epidemic, many people who are legitimately in pain are looking for alternative treatments, and there is one alternative manufactured in Melbourne.
Millions of people in the U.S. suffer from back pain. In fact, statistics show back pain is the third leading cause for doctor's visits. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first and only laser to treat chronic low back pain: the Erchonia FX 635 laser, which is manufactured in Melbourne.
After a yoga injury, Susi Rodd was left with herniated discs and excruciating pain.
"I had radiating pain down my arm, so I had nerve pain," Rodd said. "From one to 10, 10 being like very severe pain, I would say there were times when it was definitely a 10."
A neurosurgeon recommended Rodd undergo surgery and she was prescribed opioids to treat the pain.
"They prescribed them but I'm against them," Rodd said.
Instead she turned to Dr. Joe fuller and the Erchonia laser.
It can be used on various body parts, but it is the first and only laser in the world to be given FDA clearance to treat chronic low back pain.
"This is a phenomenal treatment, first off because we see it every day and how it changes people’s lives," Fuller said.
Treatments can last from a few seconds to several minutes. The laser stimulates energy in the cells so that the cells repair themselves, Fuller said.
It treats the source, not just the symptom, he said.
"There's more and more doctors using this all over the world, and we're going see more of it," he said.
"I'm smiling because I could kind of jump up and click my heels because I feel that great," Rodd said.
Dr. Matthew Willey is a pain rehabilitation specialist with Orlando Orthopeadic Center.
"Just because something is FDA approved doesn't mean it’s an optimal treatment for that problem," Willey said.
He is not opposed to laser treatments for pain but says not enough research has been done to determine the effectiveness.
"We don't know exactly how much it helps, how long it helps, what person do we treat with and what are the outcomes compared to other treatments?" he said.
Willey also warns what works for one person may not necessarily work for others.
Rodd said she is glad she took the chance.
"I would say run, not to the opioids, run to the laser therapy," Rodd said.
Because this is a relatively new treatment, insurance does not always cover it.
Treatments can cost between $75 and $125. Fuller said patients could need six to 12 treatments.