Decades after the car accident, a grandmother in Houston finally knew how to live a pain-free life after spinal ablation – mahrgan

Beverly Smith will soon turn 81-she can’t believe where all the time has gone.

As the mother of five children and the grandmother of two, she has been dealing with severe back pain since she was 19 years old. In 1959, the driver of another car hit the rear bumper of the Corvair she was driving.

At that time, her low back pain was easily ignored. When she was young, she worked for a power company in Houston and later became a housewife and mother.

Over time, her neck and back began to develop arthritis. In recent years, she has stood for more than a few minutes each time.

Smith, who lives in Houston, said: “I went to a place I wouldn’t think about and temporarily forgot, but then I always let my child rub my neck.” “Recently, the pain is so severe that I can’t even get up and fry. An egg-an egg.”

In June, Smith underwent a procedure called spinal ablation, which uses high-frequency currents through electrodes to thermally inactivate the nerves responsible for sending pain signals to the brain.

Dr. Nadya Dhanani, a UTHealth Neurosciences interventional pain management expert and Dr. Smith, said that physical problems still exist, but the ablation temporarily prevents the patient from feeling pain.

Before she was referred to the pain management team, Smith was finally ready to solve her decades of back pain and occasional leg pain. She is in her 70s and recently reduced the size of the house. She needs a solution.

“I can’t lift a 2-pound bag of sugar,” Smith exclaimed.

Dhanani wants to try non-invasive surgery to solve the pain, hoping to avoid potentially severe back surgery and extend the recovery time of his grandmother.

Dhanani said that correctly diagnosing pain is very complicated, which is why pain intervention experts are conducting and evolving research on how pain experience varies from person to person.

“Part of the challenge is figuring out why this person was injured,” Danani said. “Pain is rarely simple, because if I pinch you and ask how painful it is, it will be different if I pinch your friend. This is a subjective emotional experience.”

Patients in the UTHealth Neuroscience Group are older, suffering from back pain, herniated discs and various spinal injuries. Another interventional pain management expert on the team, Dr. Ashley Amsbaugh, said that most patients have been dealing with chronic pain for decades, which makes it more difficult to diagnose the underlying cause.

“They become so depressed, so it’s really hard for them to think they will feel better,” Amsbaugh said. “We are really focused on intervention, trying to control pain with very few drugs. We are trying to help people get rid of chronic opioids. This is another struggle because they think it is the only thing that really helps them.”

Due to the fragile stomach, Smith rarely took ibuprofen for many years to treat her back and leg pain. When her child was young, she found that the friction between the neck and back was relieved the most.

When Dhanani looked at the results of Smith’s scan, she found multiple swollen intervertebral discs that involved the large nerves around her spine. Since her main symptoms were leg pain and numbness, the doctor injected her with epidural steroids.

The injection relieved her leg pain, but aggravated her back pain. Smith could not stand or walk for a long time. Dhanani ordered more scans and performed a physical examination. She stretched her back and twisted her body.

Smith cried out in pain-this is a typical symptom of facet joint arthritis or facet joint syndrome. The cartilage in the joints between the bones of the spine breaks down and becomes inflamed, sending extreme pain signals to the nerve endings.

The next option is spinal ablation. Smith remembers that when the doctor explained how she would insert a small needle to transmit radio waves to the target nerve endings, she was scared.

“My daughter told me it was okay; her back was ablated because she was also in trouble,” Smith said. “She said it won’t start to work immediately, and it may not work forever, but it opened a new door for her.”

Dhanani explained that nerves do grow back—sometimes six months or a whole year after ablation—but they grow slowly. Although considered to be temporary, the operation can relieve significant pain for a long period of time.

Smith performed the first ablation in June 2021, approximately 17 months after being referred to a pain specialist. Unfortunately, the early stages of the pandemic delayed her treatment.

But so far, the results are good, Smith said.

“A few weeks ago, we went to Fredericksburg with the Shriners group from Galveston,” she said. “I walked 10 blocks-I haven’t walked that far in years. I always have to be wary of the time I get up and whether I am overly nervous.”

Amsbaugh said that the main goal of pain management specialists is to make their patients more active and functional in their daily lives.

“This is for you to go out to the grocery store, play with your grandchildren, and clean your house,” Amsbaugh said. “These are basic things that people have lost the ability to do.”

julie.garcia@chron.com

twitter.com/reporterjulie

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