Innovation in action: a drug-free solution for chronic pain management

Jun 30, 2022

According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic pain affects 20.4% of the U.S. population, or 50 million people, every year. It represents one of the most common and widespread health issues facing the public today, a challenge exacerbated by the fact that current treatments for chronic pain, often opioid based, come with a number of negative effects on patients.

In the case of Marianne, a nurse in Houston, Texas, what started as a twinge in her back developed into a more serious back injury. These led to additional complications that eventually spelled the end of Marianne’s hands-on nursing career and active lifestyle.

Once an avid snowboarder and runner, Marianne found herself stuck on her couch for most of the day. “I was horrified that I couldn’t do what I loved to do,” she says. “Physically, I was broken. I developed problems. I lost bladder control due to nerve damage. I had a difficult time walking. I had a lot of pain, and all the pain regimens [my doctors] tried with me did very little to take the pain away.”

Marianne saw several physicians over the years, trying to find a way to minimize the pain that kept her couchbound. She was prescribed nerve pain medicine, muscle relaxants, and heavy-duty narcotics, along with a handful of other medications to counteract the side effects of those drugs. But while the pills dulled pain, they also dulled her spirit. “It was very depressing,” she says. “I feel like I really lost part of myself.”

Pain treatment without medication

Marianne eventually began seeing specialists focused on chronic pain. After eight years of her pain management struggle, Marianne found success: she tried a spinal cord stimulator (SCS), a small implantable device designed to relieve pain by sending mild electric pulses to the spinal cord, interrupting pain signals on their way to the brain. Within two years, she ran a 5K race and was snowboarding again.

SCS has been used for decades to treat chronic pain, but thanks to recent innovation, doctors can better personalize therapy and optimize treatment. The Boston Scientific WaveWriter Alpha SCS System offers multiple therapy options that can be combined to help patients find personalized relief. This newest system also uses the first-of-its-kind Fast-Acting Sub-perception, or FAST, therapy. Rather than waiting d evice with WaveWriter Alpha, as the new device eliminated her pain completely. Her story serves as just one example of the positive outcomes Boston Scientific is committed to achieving for patients around the world.


Read the full Fast Company article about WaveWriter Alpha SCS System for chronic pain management.