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Jim's Story

Jim Wisneski was born and raised in Chicago. He had worked initially in the stockyards and subsequently wound up working in a steel mill in Northern Indiana. Throughout his life, he felt that he was a solid “tough” guy who would never resort to pain medicine.

Jim moved to Southern California to retire and to be close to his kids and grandkids. While he was golfing, a pastime he had rarely participated in while living in Illinois, he noticed a sharp pain in his back that radiated into his leg. The pain persisted and Jim, in the usual fashion, took a couple of aspirin and waited it out. After several days, the pain did not go away, and he was seen by his primary care physician who referred him to a spine surgeon. After an MRI, the spine surgeon diagnosed him with a herniated disk and an overall degenerative spine. The spine surgeon suggested surgery, and at this point Jim was unsure what to do. He talked over the plan with his primary care doctor who suggested that medication management might be beneficial and that often surgery did not have the outcome that one expected.

Not one to take pills, he decided that he would get this situation “fixed.” The patient underwent a 2-level lumbar fusion with hardware and was discharged from the hospital 4 days after surgery. Initially, Jim felt better and felt that he had made the right decision. Within 6 months though, he was not sure of his decision.

After 6 months, the patient noticed that the leg pain reemerged, and the sharp, shooting pains that he had before surgery were back again. Thinking that something had gone wrong or the surgery had failed, he went back to his spine surgeon who reordered multiple tests to image his lumbar spine.

The surgeon pronounced him well and said that his fusion was perfect and that there was no reason for him to have the pain. Jim left the office, agreeing with the doctor and in a typical Midwest fashion not wanting to confront or upset the physician.

Following this, he saw his primary care physician a few weeks later who prescribed a variety of medications. They were all somewhat helpful, but there was something still wrong and something still very debilitating about his pain. This former stockyard man and steelworker, who had worked his entire life lifting and hauling, now felt crippled by something he did not understand.

When Jim was seen at Newport Beach Headache & Pain, we explained the problems with surgery and that often surgery is not an answer. Even when surgery is done for the correct reasons, it often cannot be as effective as one hopes. Jim suffered with what is called postlaminectomy syndrome, meaning that he underwent the surgery but still had the pain.

After modifying his medications for several weeks and not having a great success with his pain, spinal cord stimulation was then suggested to Jim. Initially, he was very concerned about putting more things in his spine after the poor results of his fusion. His daughter and son-in-law convinced him that he should try it, and after a 3-day trial, he realized that the warm electrical feelings that he had from the stimulation were significantly better than the side effects of the medications that he was taking on a daily basis.

The patient underwent an implant of the spinal cord stimulator and subsequently returned to playing golf on a regular basis.

His current medications are limited and on an as needed basis only.