How desperate are you to end your chronic back pain? Desperate enough to get a trial medical device implanted next to your spinal column?

Flickr User Tony Hall

That's what one Ocean County woman did when an exhausting list of treatments and a non-invasive spinal surgery failed to soothe her back and leg pains caused by multiple bulging discs.

Seventy-seven-year-old Happy Cuthill of Lakewood was offered a five day trail of Neuromodulation Technology by Boston Scientific using Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) systems.  After the trail, she had the permanent SCS implanted. It's likened to a Pacemaker for your back.

"It prevents the pain from going to the brain," said Cuthill. "That sound's silly but that's what it does."

"The device sends electrical signals into the spinal column. These electrical signals activate certain pathways that block certain pain signals from reaching our brain," said Dr. Sean Li of Premier Pain Centers of New Jersey.

Doctor Li actually likens it to a mother's touch. "In very laymen's terms when we're very young and we cut ourselves our moms rubbed our hands to make it better. In fact, there is some science behind that. Our brains are not sophisticated enough to differentiate pain and a vibration or a light touch concurrently, so as these signals are sent to our spinal cord - the pain signals are blocked."

Cuthill described the SCS stimulator as an oreo cookie-sized device implanted right next to her spine.  She said instead of pain, she gets a tingling sensation mainly in her left leg at times.

However, getting the SCS is unlikely to ever be the first option for chronic back pain suffers. Patients commonly begin with physical therapy, anti-inflamatories, pharmaceutical opioids, epidural injections and even back surgery..

Li said to even be considered for a SCS, pre-surgical testing is required. "One of which is a psychological evaluation. We found that folks who are treated for any kind of additional mental illnesses like depression, which often comes along with chronic pain, do better than folks who haven't been treated for such things."

The SCS is placed in patients on a trial basis first. "It's very unique in my line of work where someone can try something before they're committed to it. I love how I'm able to tell patients that they can test drive this device and they're the once to actually tell me whether this worked for them."

Get the details at or call 732-380-0200.