Remote-controlled device helps people handle chronic pain -- without medication

HF10 is implanted, sends pulses to nerves through wires near spine

HOUSTON – Alisha Constancio couldn’t play with her daughter, Daisy, three months ago. A car accident had left her with chronic pain and headaches.

“I couldn’t even dress myself or shower without having or experiencing a flare-up or severe pain,” Constancio said.

Constancio was taking four drugs and she tried other treatments, but her life was still dominated by pain.

Then she learned about the HF10 neurostimulator, an implanted device that sends high-frequency pulses to nerves through wires near the spine.

“Potentially, you can turn up or turn down certain signals, turn off certain pain signals and give significant improvement of pain without the need for opioids or other medications,” said Dr. Vernon Williams, director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medication at Kerlan-Jobe Institute.

Williams said the HF10 uses high frequency, eliminating a side effect of other neurostimulators.

“What that means for the individual is that, when they have that stimulator on and it’s covering an area where they have pain, they don’t feel paresthesia, meaning they don’t feel tingling or buzzing -- any kind of uncomfortable sensation,” Willams said.

About 80 percent of patients in a clinical trial reported losing at least half their pain, and the pain-free state seems to last.

Constancio controls the pulses with a remote, depending on her pain level, and she can recharge the HF10 battery.

“I hardly experience pain or I hardly notice it, which is good enough for me,” Constancio said.

Before they get the HF10 implanted, patients get a temporary version of it, to make sure it works for them.

The HF10 is good for people with moderate to severe back or leg pain they’ve had for more than three months.

They also need to have tried other treatment, such as medications or physical therapy, first.