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August 27, 2013

Augusta, GA - It's a simple movement -- shoveling dirt from here to there, but it's one James Thigpen has been waiting four years to do.

"You're miserable. There's no relief, no matter what you try to do," he said.

Thigpen has suffered from severe and debilitating chronic pain since 2009.

"The only way I can explain it is someone taking a sledgehammer and slamming it down on top of your foot. That's how sharp the pain was," he described.

Thanks to a new procedure at Doctors Hospital, that pain is gone, replacing it with a tingly sensation all controlled by a portable remote.

"I can feel a tingling going down my leg and down my hip," Thigpen described as he pressed buttons on his remote control.

That tingly sensation is caused by wires called leads that are inserted on top of the spinal cord. At the end of the leads are contacts that send electrical currents that mask the pain message to the brain.

"This is one of the leads," shows Neurosurgeon Dr. Ildemaro Volcan. "The contacts can give electrical current to the spinal cord. What you're going to feel is a tingling type of sensations, but no pain in the area."

Spinal cord stimulation itself isn't a new procedure, but recently, the wires have been upgraded to offer more widespread coverage of the spine. More technically speaking, the new procedure offers more contacts and more lead ports, giving patients like Thigpen better pain relief and another option besides painkillers or shots.

"This was my final option, and it worked. It's a 100 percent better than it was," Thigpen said.

The procedure is also giving him back a quality of life.

"It's very gratifying to see these type of patients fulfilling their dreams, going back to their family and enjoying life," Dr. Volcan said.

"There's no pain," Thigpen said as he continued shoveling dirt.

It's a procedure that's getting Thigpen "out of the trenches," so he can be the one digging them -- pain free.

Dr. Volcan says this is the only procedure where you can do a trial surgery first to see how it will work for you.

He says pain can be so hard to treat and a procedure like this could be very helpful to someone like a military veteran or an amputee who is in pain all the time.

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