Dec 19, 2022

Nurse credits device with relieving her crippling leg and foot pain

Medtronic estimates 800,000 Americans could benefit from therapy approved for chronic diabetes related pain 

Farrah Stewart-Tarver wondered if she’d be in wheelchair by the time she was 50 years-old.  

In 2015, the pediatric nurse started having pain in her lower back that ran down her legs and eventually turned into numbness and tingling in her lower legs and feet. Doctors diagnosed her as pre-diabetic and identified the pain in her legs as diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) — a condition resulting from damage to the nerves caused by high blood sugar. 

“My mom also has diabetic peripheral neuropathy which is very painful for her to the point where she walks with a cane,” said Farrah, reflecting on her family history of diabetes.  “But for me, the tingling and the numbness was horrible.  The pain got to be where I would say it was a 10 out of 10.” 

Farrah Stewart-Tarver
Farrah Stewart-Tarver is a pediatric nurse and mother who lives in Houston, Texas.

That kind of pain quickly began taking a toll on her daily life. At first, it meant she just stopped wearing heels, but over time her work began to suffer. She couldn’t spend long periods standing without excruciating pain, so she left her job that required spending days on her feet and took a case management position that allowed for more time sitting at a desk. Soon even sitting for too long became painful so she stopped working. 

With doctor supervision, she tried physical therapy and steroid injections, but those didn’t seem to work. She says pain medications helped a little, but also affected her clarity of mind. She was home in bed or sitting on a heating pad most of the time and she says she started feeling depressed because her personal life began to suffer as well. Lack of exercise led to weight gain. Simple household chores became too painful. Relatives stayed with the family to help manage cleaning, cooking, and driving her children to the school activities and the fieldtrips she had once proudly chaperoned. Travel — her favorite pastime — was also out of the question. 

After exhausting options, her doctors referred her to interventional spine and pain management physician Dr. Silky Patel, who suggested Farrah try a Medtronic spinal cord stimulator – an implantable device that can block pain signals from reaching the brain.  

“There is no cure for diabetic peripheral neuropathy,” said Dr. Patel. “It’s really just about managing the symptoms. Until recently, we’ve really only had conservative measures such as physical therapy and medications to help manage these symptoms, so getting painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy as an approved diagnosis for spinal cord stimulation is a blessing and so exciting for the millions of patients with diabetes.” 

Dr. Silky Patel (left), implanted Farrah Stewart-Tarver (right)
Interventional spine and pain management specialist, Dr. Silky Patel (left), implanted Farrah Stewart-Tarver (right) with a spinal cord stimulator to relieve her painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

An estimated 30% of people with diabetes are affected by DPN. Patients who qualify for spinal cord stimulation (SCS) first get to try the device for a few days to see if it provides them meaningful pain relief.  Spinal cord stimulators are implanted under the skin, similar to a pacemaker, but during the trial period, the device is secured to the patients back without being implanted under the skin. Dr. Patel describes it as “test-driving a surgery without committing to the surgery.” 

For Farrah, the trial was a success.  She says she experienced a 50% reduction in pain and decided to proceed with the implant surgery. The day her device was turned on, she recalls being able walk around, do the dishes, and even get a good night sleep, something she says the pain had interrupted for years. After her recovery, she was able to return to physical therapy and even reduced the amount of medications she was taking, leading to a clearer mind.  Some days she reports as much as 75% reduction in pain levels 

“My outlook on the future has improved dramatically,” said Farrah, who is thankful to return to traveling with her family. “I had made plans for my future and had to put those things on the back burner.  Now I can see myself doing those things, and I’m able to do things with my kids that I had been unable to do for years.” 


INDICATIONS Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is indicated as an aid in the management of chronic, intractable pain of the trunk and/or limbs-including unilateral or bilateral pain. CONTRAINDICATIONS Diathermy - Energy from diathermy can be transferred through the implanted system and cause tissue damage resulting in severe injury or death. WARNINGS Sources of electromagnetic interference (e.g., defibrillation, electrocautery, MRI, RF ablation, and therapeutic ultrasound) can interact with the system, resulting in unexpected changes in stimulation, serious patient injury or death. An implanted cardiac device (e.g., pacemaker, defibrillator) may damage a neurostimulator, and electrical pulses from the neurostimulator may cause inappropriate response of the cardiac device. Patients with diabetes may have more frequent and severe complications with surgery. A preoperative assessment is advised for some patients with diabetes to confirm they are appropriate candidates for surgery. PRECAUTIONS Safety and effectiveness has not been established for pediatric use, pregnancy, unborn fetus, or delivery. Avoid activities that put stress on the implanted neurostimulation system components. Recharging a rechargeable neurostimulator may result in skin irritation or redness near the implant site. ADVERSE EVENTS May include: undesirable change in stimulation (uncomfortable, jolting or shocking); hematoma, epidural hemorrhage, paralysis, seroma, infection, erosion, device malfunction or migration, pain at implant site, loss of pain relief, and other surgical risks. Adverse events may result in fluctuations in blood glucose in patients with diabetes. Refer to for product manuals for complete indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions and potential adverse events. Rx only. Rev 0422