Cutting-edge medical advancement helps chronic pain patients without opioids

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - A local woman is able to walk, work and do things she loves again without pain that was chronic. It's all thanks to a cutting-edge medical advancement called a spinal cord stimulator.

Heather Breckinridge works at a wine and cheese shop and loves what she does, whether it's packing up boxes of wine or helping a customer pick the perfect bottle. However, two months ago, she couldn't even stand without debilitating chronic pain.

"Nine times out of 10 I wasn't moving. I wasn't doing anything," said Breckinridge.

Heather Breckenridge

The injury came years ago when she was at work. She had just moved a case at the front of the store when she noticed one stray bottle.

"The next thing I know -  picked up one bottle and screamed bloody hell," said Breckinridge. She found out she had two herniated disks on each side of her spine.

Breckinridge worked with Dr. David Goss, an orthopedic surgeon, to try and fix the problem. They tried everything, including four surgeries, physical therapy, medications and steroid injections. But the pain stuck around and kept her from living her life. Breckinridge said most days she would be confined to her bed and dependent on family and friends to help her take the kids to school, make dinner and more.

"I’ve given birth, no this was worse because it lasts so much longer. There’s nothing they could do to make it go away until they finally put in the stimulator, which is my hero," said Breckinridge.

Dr. Goss suggested a spinal cord stimulator called a WaveWriter by Boston Scientific. It's a non-opioid treatment option for people with chronic pain in the legs and back. The surgery was performed at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare in mid-March.

"Leads are connected to the spinal cord and basically trick the body into not feeling the pain," said Dr. Goss.

Before the surgery, Breckinridge was able to test out the stimulator to see if it would be a good fit. It's one of the reasons Dr. Goss likes the stimulator so much.

"Not having to take a medication and being able to try it out before it's permanently implanted - that’s truly unique because we don't have anything else like that," said Dr. Goss.

Breckinridge said she could feel the difference right after the surgery.

"By the time I got home from Chesapeake, I wasn’t feeling any pain at all," said Breckinridge, noting although she did feel pain from the surgery itself, her chronic pain was gone. "I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think it was real."

Breckinridge is pain-free, but that doesn't mean her injury is healed. While Dr. Goss continues to find a better fix for her injury, Breckinridge is happy to have her life back.