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Ozaukee County woman finds alternative to opioids for dealing with chronic pain

Posted at 7:29 AM, May 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-14 08:43:58-04

The opioid epidemic has more people looking for different ways to deal with pain. An Ozaukee County woman said turning to technology helped her get her life back.

Nancy Schiman was a teenager when she started having back problems.

"It wasn't debilitating, but I remember even having to turn down a job as a teenager because it involved standing all day and I couldn't stand," said Schiman.

The pain only got worse.

"It's been about 15 years of really chronic pain," said Schiman.

Pills were an easy fix.

"It really bothered me how much that was the go-to," said Schiman.

Schiman knew she couldn't rely on opioids forever, so she tried pretty much everything else: therapy, topical treatments and shots.

"Every five to six months I was going back into day surgery and having these treatments done, and you'd get a couple months of relief and then it would come back again," said Schiman.

Pain management Dr. Tom Stauss introduced her to spinal cord stimulation.

"This device sends mild imperceptible pulses of electrical signals to the pain receptors in the spinal cord," said Stauss.

Stauss said Nevro HF10 changes the way pain is transmitted to the pain center in the brain.

"The tools in our toolbox are really significantly improving," said Stauss.

He said more and more patients are looking for alternatives to medication.

"Even when patients don't come specifically asking for different ways to treat the pain without pain medication, it's still something that we discuss," said Stauss.

Cost can be a drawback.

"Interestingly enough, insurance is not very supportive of some of these alternatives," said Schiman.

"The tools in our toolbox are really significantly improving." — Dr. Tom Stauss

Schiman said it was a lot of work to get the implant covered.

"They were very comfortable with covering a prescription for Vicodin or something like that, but even not to get a Lidocaine patch it's very difficult," said Schiman.

Schiman said it worked. She can even travel and sit through long flights again.

"It's involved a lot of lifestyle changes. I do yoga, I do a lot of stretching. I've had to change my whole workout routine," said Schiman.

The implant lasts about 10 years. A company representative said the implant is covered by nearly all private insurers and Medicare.

More than 2 million Americans were addicted to prescription opioids in 2015. 63% of opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin in 2015 involved prescription pain relievers.