Ava Strole has known a lifetime of pain.
The 57-year-old Cincinnati resident was just six when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, for which she had treatment and wore a brace. Nine years later, she learned that she had degenerative disc disease, which is typically only found in older adults.
Ava has undergone three spinal surgeries, which included the placement of rods in her spine for extra stability in 1994, and steroid injections. Despite all of this, she still suffered from bulging discs which caused excruciating and constant sciatic nerve pain in her right hip and leg. She was walking with a cane and faced using a walker.
After 15 years of pain management and a “cocktail of drugs to help me get by, day to day,” Ava was at her wits end.
“I didn’t like that life and how I felt,” she says. “I was on pain medicine for nerve damage and opiates for the sciatic nerve pain. It was debilitating.”
A visit to her original surgeon eventually led Ava to meet with Mercy Health Physician Aarti Singla, M.D., a dual board-certified physician with training in physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as pain management. Dr. Singla suggested a four-day trial with a spinal cord stimulator.
A spinal cord stimulator is a device that a surgeon places under a patient’s skin.
Like a pacemaker, it sends a mild electric current to the spinal cord, stimulating the nerves where a patient feels pain and helping mask the pain signals before they reach the brain. It can help people manage chronic pain and reduce their medication use.
“The trial gives you an idea if the stimulator will help,” says Ava. “I experienced lots of relief. I walked around the farmer’s market and it was the first time I was pain free in a long time. The medication doesn’t permanently alleviate the pain but for once, it was gone.
Soon after, Ava had the stimulator implanted.
“Dr. Singla has done more for me in two years than anyone else,” she says. “I’m no longer on opiates and almost completely off all medications.”
And after a four to six-week recovery period, Ava’s life was completely transformed.
“There’s no pain. It’s completely eliminated. For the first time in years, I can lay flat in a bed. I can walk. I can take care of and play with my grandchildren,” says Ava. “I’m living a normal life again.”
Learn more about the pain management services offered at Mercy Health.