This is a post that thankfully won’t be relevant to most people who read my blog. That’s because it’s going to discuss a major back injury and treatment for people who can’t get better through physical therapy, epidural injections or surgery. I’m talking about a spinal cord stimulator.

A spinal cord stimulator is like a pacemaker for your back. It gets surgically implanted in to your body and sends low levels of electricity to your spinal cord in order to decrease pain. It’s an often last resort pain management measure for very seriously injured people. The doctors who place these devices in your body typically have very high level training in interventional pain management. The procedure typically takes around two hours.

It’s a pretty effective procedure, but it does come with a lot of risks including infections, a punctured spinal cord, the device migrating and bleeding. It also is common for it to need maintenance or need to be replaced.

As you can imagine, this procedure is not cheap, so many Illinois workers’ compensation insurance companies try to avoid paying for it.  There is a recent case brought by a Walmart employee that shows how to win approval.

In that case, the worker actually injured her foot when a pallet fell on it and developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). She wasn’t getting any better so she began treatment with a pain management doctor and a physiatrist who specialized in interventional pain management. The key point here is that she tried normal treatment, it didn’t work and she then sought out higher level specialists.

Both of those doctors recommended a spinal cord stimulator due to her chronic pain. One of the doctors noted how young she was which made that option better than narcotics. Despite two very experienced and specialized doctors having the same opinion, Walmart denied her approval for this treatment.

The good news is that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation saw through this denial that made no sense and awarded placement of the spinal cord stimulator which will hopefully greatly improve her life. It’s of course ridiculous that they didn’t do what they could in order to make her life better sooner instead of later.

In sum, you have to start with conservative care in most cases (physical therapy) and then gradually increase the type of care that you’re getting when you don’t get better. And you need to get with experienced, reputable physicians. In almost any case when that happens we will be able to win benefits at trial if not sooner.