Reborn to Dance

Published in Dickson Medical Associates Quarterly Newsletter – Spring 2018

To hear Rose Denton explain it, her love of dance began when she was born tapping her toes.

“I think I’ve always danced,” said Denton. “I always tell everybody my mother brought me home from the hospital, turned the radio music on and I’ve danced ever since.”

Since 2010, Denton teaches Zumba classes three days a week at senior centers in Dickson and Waverly. Shortly after becoming an instructor, Denton had an accident and required back surgery. She took a year off from Zumba to recover before returning to her classes.

“I love the rhythms of the Latin music. The moves are so flowing,” said Denton. “I consider my Zumba classes to be like a big family. As an instructor, I’ve met so many different people, from so many walks of life. I see the biggest difference in the people who come back, week after week. They are happier, more calm and more balanced.”

In the years following her surgery, Denton experienced increasing levels of chronic pain in her back. By early 2017, the pain reached debilitating levels.

“There’s no way I could sweep a floor,” said Denton. “I couldn’t vacuum, I couldn’t stand in one place and do dishes. My husband Jimmy would want to go places and I couldn’t. Each day the pain got worse. I could hardly walk, so I could hardly teach and my Zumba classes progressively got shorter.”

Denton’s pain eventually required her to have a student lead the dances while she sat and called out instructions. Her chronic pain was initially relieved by spinal injections and pain management prescriptions; however, the effectiveness of both lessened over time.

“I hate pain medication. You’re woozy and light headed all the time. You’re not in control and I like to be in control,” said Denton.

Abuse of prescription pain relievers, such as opioids, has been declared a public health crisis by the National Institute of Health within the past year. In 2016, more than 7.6 million painkiller prescriptions were written in TN, exceeding the state’s population of 6.6 million residents.

Disillusioned with further treatment by prescription medications, Denton consulted with Dr. J. Stacy Dinkins, an orthopedic and spinal surgeon at Dickson Medical Associates, for alternative options to pain management. The constant pain and isolation were emotionally devastating for Denton. She was losing the ability to do the things that brought her the greatest joys, such as her Zumba classes.

“I told Dr. Dinkins the shots were not working,” said Denton. “He suggested I try having spinal cord stimulation. I told him, ‘Let’s go for it.’ I would try anything. I was desperate.”

“For those who have back pain, buttock pain and lower extremity discomfort, all is not lost,” said Dinkins. “We do have some alternatives now and one is spinal cord stimulation.”

Spinal cord stimulation, a form of neurostimulation, works by altering pain signals as they travel to the brain. A small generator, comparable in size to a cardiac pacemaker, sends pulses through thin wires called leads to nerves along the spinal cord. These pulses modify the pain signals as they travel to different parts of the brain, changing the way the body perceives the pain. A trial period is involved where the generator is worn externally and a person can modify their pain management via an app on an iPod touch.

Dinkins believes spinal cord stimulation has to the potential to be one of the best alternatives for those who are taking opioid medication and have chronic pain. He also emphasizes that the success of this neurostimulation treatment is still determined on a case-by-case basis.

“Spinal cord stimulation will not work for everybody and it’s not going to take away 100% of their pain,” said Dinkins. “We can hope that it helps to make life better for those patients who qualify for it and to have less dependency on current pain medications like opioids.”

Following her surgery to install the stimulator, Denton said the first two days were difficult. By day five she was ready to do anything and describes her pain level going from a ten to a one.

“After receiving the stimulator, I felt like I had been reborn,” said Denton. “Not having each moment be a struggle with my pain is very liberating.”

When asked about Denton’s experience with spinal cord stimulation, Dr. Dinkins reiterates that Rose’s success with pain management are specific to her.

“Most patients will experience at least some reduction in pain; however, the amount of pain relief an individual experience will vary,” said Dinkins. “The surgical placement and use of a neurostimulation system can pose risks, the occurrence of which also varies by individual. While spinal stimulation may not work for everyone, there is hope. It is worth exploring the option and doing the stimulator trial to see firsthand if this can provide some relief and reduce prescription dependency.”

Looking back, Denton describes her life prior to the stimulator as an imprisonment by her pain. Today, she not only is back to teaching Zumba, but she is able to enjoy the simple pleasures of volunteering with Meals on Wheels, getting her hair done and taking walks with her husband.

“I would recommend this spinal stimulator to anyone,” said Denton. “I talk to someone everyday about it. They see me and the difference it’s made and ask, ‘Tell me all about it and what all you have to go through because you look great now.’ Then I say, ‘Why thank you, I feel great.’”

When the Dickson Senior Center hosted their annual Valentine’s dance this past winter, Rose and Jimmy were the first couple out on the dance floor.

“Dance has been intertwined with my life from the beginning,” said Denton. “It makes everything go smoother. If I can hear music, I’m good. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t dance anymore.”