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Technology helping patients recover from spinal injuries

(KATV Photo)

According to a recent study, there are over 12,000 new spinal cord injuries each year, meaning 40 out of every one million people suffer such an injury.

Alventena Cobb is one of those.

"I had an injury in 2007 that landed me in a wheelchair for about 7 years," Cobb said.

Cobb went from a wheelchair to walking thanks to a tiny device.

She suffered from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which Dr. Erika Peterson, a neurosurgeon at UAMS, says can often happen after a trauma.

"In this case the target in the nervous system is in the spinal cord, so there's a little implanted battery box underneath the skin and the wires run through that into the spinal canal and signals to overwhelm abnormal nerve function and change how somebody is processing the nervous system," Dr. Peterson explained. "In the case of someone with chronic pain, what that means is we can drown out or block some of those pain messages from ever getting to a place where they are recognized."

"She implanted the neurostimulator in my lower back for my legs," Cobb said. "It worked almost immediately as far as relieving the pain."

After about six months, she was walking again. After a year, she was able to walk unassisted.

Cobb then developed a similar pain in her arm and needed a second stimulator, which was also a success.

"It was so amazing to me that we could try to help her in a way and she was so patient and trusting with us that we could try to get things working with the stimulator device and we could get her relief where she could actually hold her instrument again," Peterson said.

"I can play, and that was the biggest thing. I wasn't able to function because I wasn't able to play," Cobb said. "Once I was able to put my violin back up on my shoulder, and able to pull the bow, and do things through my instrument again, because of the surgery my life became a whole lot better."

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