The means to put a lovely meal on the table. The daughter sitting just a few inches back from that table to make room for the grandchild coming early next year. The ability to sit with family without worrying that the day will be marred by random, debilitating pain coursing through your body. We all have our own reasons to be thankful this time of year, but for people like Ashleigh and Kevin, the gratitude can be more sweeping and last far longer than one day. Because these people have lived with chronic pain that once shattered their lives and, thanks to some pretty impressive medical technology – and equally impressive medical care providers – they are now particularly grateful for the moments so many others take for granted. And the caregivers who treat these patients all day, every day, experience the same gratitude when they are able to dramatically improve others' lives. Two of those healthcare providers, Drs. Efrain Cubillo and Eric Cornidez, treated Robert, a former Marine and young dad, who suffered through years of debilitating pain before finding considerable relief when the doctors implanted Abbott's Proclaim™ XR SCS device. They are interventional pain physicians who work out of the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona (PISA), a series of clinics that cover a large swath of the greater Tucson area. They know Robert well. 'He had excruciating pain that followed a crushing injury he suffered in the military,' recalled Dr. Cubillo. 'He had injections, nerve blocks, pretty much every medication under the sun. They weren't doing the job. So, we talked it through and he decided he wanted to try spinal cord stimulation. Shortly thereafter, he felt significant pain relief in his lower extremities. 'He saw a dramatic improvement in his quality of life. He's now able to study for his MBA more effectively because his mind is sharper and he isn't distracted by the constant pain. He's able to do things with his wife and little girl that he couldn't before.' Where Spine and Soul Unite But it's not just Robert and family who benefit from this profound change in his life. 'I can't describe the feeling,' said Dr. Cubillo. 'It's kind of overwhelming, a rush of emotions that you aren't just improving his life but his whole family's. We're in the business of making a difference through the use of technology. This is a perfect example of that.' Dr. Cornidez, who doubles as chief medical officer of PISA, likewise feels it's vital to locate their practice at the intersection of medical technology and human caring. 'PISA's mission statement is, 'Through compassion and innovation, we will make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and communities.' My mentor always told me if you're going to be a specialist, do something special. We try to do that for our patients.' Neuromodulation can be a dramatic stage on which to showcase the impact medical technology has on many people in need. Whether it is a device that can reduce Parkinson's tremors or better manage chronic pain, the science of neuromodulation is developing both fascinating, and increasingly important, tools. 'When nerves are hyper-excitable, when they are injured, there is only so much we can do with a needle. We can try using medications, steroids, nerve blocks, but that may only work in the short-term,' said Dr. Cubillo. 'For long-term, appropriate situations we want to utilize the technology that can tap into the nervous system and calm those nerves down. The only way to do that is through neuromodulation. 'The reason it's so life-changing is because patients with this type and degree of pain, have such a big pain pattern that the pain is all they're thinking about. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Basically, that's their lives. How do we change that mindset?' Yes, we know we sound like the only word in our vocabulary is 'pain,' but for those patients, that's their life. That's the problem. 'Air Traffic Control Center of the Nervous System' The answer may be neuromodulation. 'We know how the nervous system works, through electrical chemical signals. We can reach into those signals and alter how the nerves respond to pain,' said Dr. Cubillo. 'We use this technology to tap into the air traffic control center of the nervous system and modulate the signals before they reach the brain. We aren't using a nerve blocker. It's no Band-Aid. We are altering the communication pathways of the spine.' Dr. Cornidez agrees. 'Neuromodulation technology has been in existence for decades and the beauty of it is that it has evolved significantly and continues to do so. Where years ago, the electrical signal was more of a distractor than anything, now the technology is so good that we can dampen the pain without the patient feeling any tingling. In addition to treating the pain, this therapy improves quality of life. People's lives are better because of this technology.'