Skip to Content

ThedaCare Patient Finds Pain Relief through Peripheral Nerve Stimulation

Last updated: March 6, 2024

I can sleep in my bed. I can go out and do things with friends, and I don’t have to worry about my shoulder pain getting so bad that I have to leave early.

Courtney, ThedaCare Orthopedic Care Patient

Driving. Working on a computer. Sleeping. These are just some of the many everyday activities that became difficult for Courtney Hueseman due to debilitating shoulder pain.

“There’s just so much we take for granted,” Courtney says. “Until you have chronic pain that affects so much, you don’t realize the little things you do that require your shoulders.”

Courtney had endured shoulder pain for years. She underwent rotator cuff surgery in 2020, but she later discovered it had failed and a new tear had developed. That type of outcome is unfortunate but not uncommon with rotator cuff repair surgery, especially with larger tears.

Later, Courtney needed another shoulder surgery, after which she wound up with frozen shoulder and even more pain. Making matters worse, Courtney got in a car accident in January 2022 and injured her other shoulder. It worsened the pain in her right shoulder, and she developed a new tear in her left.

Impact of Pain

The pain affected many aspects of Courtney’s life, but none worse than her quality of sleep. She couldn’t lie comfortably on her back or side. She could sometimes fall asleep if she was exhausted enough, but as quickly as five minutes later, she’d wake up crying because of the pain.

“It was that deep-down, inside-the-joint pain,” she says of the discomfort that led her to sleep in a recliner for two years.

Throughout the years, Courtney had to abandon ambitions due to the pain. She’d hoped to become a nurse, an emergency medical technician, and a volunteer firefighter, but those all became out of reach.

The work she did do at a plasma donation center became difficult to impossible, with Courtney missing one to two days a week due to the pain. She worried she would need to apply for disability.

“I would just sit at my desk and cry,” she says.

Pain Relief at Last

Eventually, Courtney received a referral to Dr. Matt Fischer, an Anesthesiologist and Pain Management Specialist with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care.

Landing on the right chronic pain treatment took some trial and error. Corticosteroid injections through the orthopedic department didn’t work well for Courtney, a diabetic, because they led to blood sugar spikes. Dr. Fischer continued to work with her to find a treatment that would work.

“For each patient we work with, we try to find the right mix of therapies, medications, and/or procedures based on what best fits their preferences to manage their specific pain,” Dr. Fischer says. “In Courtney’s case, she had exhausted options through our orthopedic department, and so we went to work on targeting the nerves that are responsible for carrying pain away from the shoulder region.”

In January 2024, Courtney finally found relief through peripheral nerve stimulation.

With the minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Fischer placed a tiny needle through which a small wire was threaded. The device applies stimulation to the nerve to overwhelm pain as it’s happening.

The stimulator typically stays in place for 60 days. It reorganizes the nerve inputs to the brain to try to overwhelm or “hit the reset button” on abnormal pathways to try to reach long-term pain relief.

Peripheral nerve stimulation is a possibility for many pain generators, Dr. Fischer says. It’s most commonly used for shoulder, knee, low back, and foot and ankle pain, but it can have other applications as well. The treatment is an option for use both before or after surgery, depending on specific patient scenarios.

Amazing Results

“I have had 100% pain relief ever since the procedure,” Courtney says of the procedure. “I was shocked.”

While Courtney says she still has a limited range of motion, her pain is gone. Today, she can do tasks that before were difficult, including washing her hair and putting dishes in the cupboard.

“I can sleep in my bed. I can go out and do things with friends, and I don’t have to worry about my shoulder pain getting so bad that I have to leave early,” she says.

Dr. Fischer says he’s pleased with the relief that Courtney has found, noting that her results exceed the norm.

“One hundred percent pain relief is not typical. Most patients will experience pain relief during the trial lasting up to 60 days, and then ongoing positive impact to their pains even after the trial system is removed,” Dr. Fischer says. “I try to stress to my patients that pain relief is a dynamic target, and we continuously strive to provide that functional pain relief even if things change in the future.”

Courtney says she’s grateful for her outstanding results and for the care she’s received from both Dr. Fischer and Dr. Eric Erickson, who performed her shoulder surgeries.

“They’re both wonderful, and they’re professional and straightforward with their answers,” she says. “They tell it like it is. If they don’t think something is going to work, they’ll tell you.”

Positive Outlook

Courtney recently began a new job as a phlebotomist and apheresis specialist with the Community Blood Center, and she’s making plans for a brighter future.

“Things were looking pretty bleak, but now they’re definitely looking up,” she says.

Courtney hopes that after the removal of her peripheral nerve stimulator, she can get treatment for her frozen shoulder and restore her range of motion. That would allow her to return to lifting weights and living a more active lifestyle. She also anticipates picking up her cat and hugging her boyfriend without limitation or discomfort.

“Little things like that bring people so much joy,” she says. “I’m looking forward to doing those again.”

“It’s great to be able to help patients at any stage of their journey, but it’s especially gratifying to be able to provide a level of pain relief for patients who have been told elsewhere that there is ‘nothing else to offer,’” Dr. Fischer says. “This can be a very difficult phrase for patients to hear, and we’re fortunate to be able to offer several unique options for pain relief through ThedaCare.”

Learn more about pain management care or call (920) 831-5050 to schedule.

Tags: chronic pain frozen shoulder Pain Management peripheral nerve stimulation rotator cuff surgery shoulder pain

Related Articles

Link to the full post Bones & Joints

Minimally Invasive Procedure Can Alleviate Tendon Pain

Link to the full post Bones & Joints

No Pain, Just Game: Enjoy Sports Safely with Your Crew