In the two years since the beginning of Florida’s pill mill crackdown, doctors, drug dealers, and drug abusers who are only interested in exploiting the system have been driven out of the state in large numbers. But even legitimate doctors with patients who face real pain are taking more time to discuss and explore alternatives to drugs for pain management. One alternative is a class of high-tech devices with none of the potential addictive effects or complications of opioid painkillers.
Patients with chronic pain now have available to them devices that send electrical signals to the brain in order to block the sensation of pain. They have the support of Medicare, the insurance industry, and the FDA. This is critical to ensure patient access.
One such device, a spinal cord stimulator, is implanted in fatty tissue in the lower back near the spine. The system sends electrical signals to the spinal cord that override the brain’s sensation of pain. The patient operates the unit, turning it on or off and controlling the signal frequency with a small remote control.
A report from the SunSentinel covered a patient who was in near-constant agony following surgery on her broken foot. She was scarcely able to walk or drive and depended on her husband for nearly everything. The spinal cord stimulator let her be without pain and regain her mobility almost immediately. The $23,000 procedure was covered entirely by her health insurance. These high-tech therapies are more costly up-front to insurers when compared with medication, but insurers are on board because of the potential for long-term cost savings.