A Willing Guinea Pig

Desperation makes ignoring pitfalls easy. Choosing a treatment without much clinical research to back it up or expose its shortcomings, like nerve stimulation, shouldn’t be done lightly.

The downsides that aren’t covered in the media? Just as the body tends to “outsmart” meds after a while, a nerve stimulator may stop working over time. Also, the surgery itself, or having a device implanted in your body over the long haul, may complicate or increase your pain. Notice that both of these sentences contain the word “may.” Studies on nerve stimulation for chronic headache are underway, but these are among the many questions yet to be answered.

The first of the occipital nerve stimulators are being tested now. One may prove to be better than another or all of them may need to be modified to work effectively in the future. Stimulators available five years from now will almost certainly be better equipped for this particular application. Or they may be abandoned altogether as a nonviable option.

Any doctor researching nerve stimulation, no matter how pure his or her intentions may be, would love to be the one to find The Answer for chronic headache. Of course they are excited about implanting a nerve stimulator. Not only do they have a chance to help you, they can also learn more about the device. This isn’t necessarily bad; just make sure your reason isn’t lost in their enthusiasm.

Docs aren’t all-knowing, particularly in an area that’s so new. Ask questions and make sure the answers are satisfactory. “We don’t know that yet” is an acceptable response only if you’re willing to take that risk. I was and I’m glad for that, but I do wonder if I will have regrets in the future.

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