millions of americans suffer from chronic pain... but for some it's so intense it ruins their lives.
NBC's Monica Robins reports how a brain stimulation device may be the future of pain management.
karen smith, patient: "they were so bad that i would lay in bed and cry. shake my head and hold my head and scream and cry."
for the last thirteen years karen smith suffered excruciating headaches and pain in her face caused by a nerve condition... called anestheisa dolorosa... pain like the constant stinging of bees...
karen smith, patient: "it started underneath my eye and it went all the way down my chin and right here it stopped."
morphine dulled the pain, but left karen unable to work or function normally... then she met doctor jonathan miller, a brain surgeon at u.h. who gave her hope..
karen smith, patient: "he said 'i can help you' and i never heard that in thirteen years, that somebody can help me."
doctor miller implanted a stimulation device into karen's brain... similar to the kind that helps control shaking in parkinson's patients.. but in karen's case it literally calmed her nerves in seconds...
karen smith, patient: "i felt like the bees were just flying right out of my, like they were just flying right out of my face."
dr. jonathan miller, brain surgeon: "its hard to say how long its going to last, so far we're a few weeks out now and she still has complete resolution of her pain so the chance we'll be able to maintain that is pretty high."
that's why doctor miller implanted extra electrodes.. so the device can be altered if the pain returns.. but for now.. karen has her life back...
karen smith, patient: "there is a chance for me, to go back to work, to have my life, and i haven't had that chance."