Chronic pain is one of the most common and pressing concerns of Americans, especially the senior and elderly ones. Aside from elderly patients, other people who experience and suffer chronic pains are those who’ve undergone surgery, those born with poor health conditions, survivors of accidents and traumatic incidents, those with debilitating diseases, and the terminally ill. There’s so much pain that an entire industry has emerged to develop treatments for chronic pain.
There are currently a diverse number of ways to treat chronic pain. The most commonly known, of course, is drug therapy through over-the-counter painkillers or drugs prescribed by doctors to relieve chronic pain. Some people also go to physical therapists and acupuncturists seeking relief from their suffering. A vast number of Americans have even turned to opioids hoping to numb their pain.
The healthcare sector has responded by developing numerous technologies for alternative pain relief. Here are a few of the promising ones:
The explosion in the popularity of opioids has led to an epidemic. This has led researchers and clinicians to look for alternative methods of relieving pain. One of the breakthrough innovations made by researchers and clinicians is the TENS Machine. TENS is the acronym for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This device employs TENS to relieve acute pain in the joints and muscles.
TENS technology works by sending electrical pulses through the nerves, which travel across the patient’s skin. The device also works to prevent pain signals from reaching the patient’s brain. This makes the patient think that there’s no pain. To help the patient feel better, pain relief is also achieved through the electrical stimulation from TENS, which can result in the release of endorphins.
Healthcare marketing analysts have observed that there has been an increasing amount of consumer interest to know their options for pain relief, other than opioids and prescription pain killers, which have been demonstrated to be potentially dangerous. Although the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has stated that they are still evaluating the effectiveness of TENS machines and devices, and clinical trials are still ongoing, the use of these devices has already become quite widespread in a number of countries.
- Radiofrequency Ablation Devices
Another emergent technology developed to relieve chronic pain are radiofrequency ablation devices. The major scope of applications of these devices is for chronic pain and geriatric pain. The device is expected to gain more popularity and usage with the ever-increasing number of people who experience chronic pain.
Radiofrequency (RF) ablation therapy works by denervating tissues, which are part of the peripheral nervous system. This is done in RF therapy by generating heat from medium frequency alternating current at around 350 to 500 kHz and applying this heat to the denervation process. One method of performing this is called the radiofrequency catheter ablation because it uses a catheter for the denervating process. Compared to surgery, RF therapy involves minimally invasive procedures.
A similar development in laser ablation technology is now being used for cosmetic purposes in treating varicose veins.
A market research study forecasts that demand for RF ablation therapy will increase in the coming years. Studies point out that the growing number of elderly people who require pain therapy, as well as the worsening chronic pain conditions, as the main causes.
Among the advantages of RF ablation therapy is that it significantly reduces complications in surgery procedures. It has also helped substantially minimize the adverse effects and shortened the time for patient recovery. The RF devices are relatively easy to access and reasonably priced.
The medical journal Anesthesia & Analgesia published a study in 2014 which reported patient recovery in more than half of those who were given RF ablation therapy. Patients were given therapy to relieve them from refractory sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pains.
The study showed that more than half experienced relief from their pain for a period of not less than six months after receiving RF ablation therapy. It was conducted on a total of 77 patients with SIJ pains.
- Electroceutical Device Patches
Electroceutical patch device is a non-invasive technology that employs electromagnetic fields for pain therapy. Researchers have developed a device with patches that can modulate efferent nerve activity using electromagnetic fields.
The device works basically by applying electromagnetic fields to dampen the pain perceived by the human brain. This is done by sending 1kHz pulse signals to the nerve tissue where the pain is most felt. The effect is that the brain is prevented from adapting to the stimulation process and thinks there’s no pain.
Researchers and clinicians say this device can be applied to minimize post-surgery pain. It can also be used to reduce chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Therapists are also looking forward to its applications in neuropathy and treating sports injuries.
Clinical trials indicate that the device is quite effective in reducing chronic pain. Patients who were given this therapy also said they were able to go back to their normal day-to-day functions among patients. At least half of the patients said they felt less pain after treatment. Most cases involved menstrual, post-operation, muscle, and bone pains. Patients also reported that they were able to have an uninterrupted sleep after being given the therapy.
In a study of more than 5000 patients, the participants said they felt a lot less pain after being given the electroceutical patch device therapy. Based on the quantitative results, the effectiveness of the device ranges from 59% to 71%.
On average, patients said they were able to cut at least half of their intake of pain relievers and other prescribed medicines. More than two-thirds said they experienced better sleep. Around the same number were able to give up opioids. The results of this study were published in the journal Pain Management.
- Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
Another innovation in chronic pain management is the spinal cord stimulation treatment designed by a group of physicians and researchers. This technology works by sending ‘bursts’ of pulses to stimulate the spinal cord. These pulses mimic the natural nerve impulse patterns that normally occur in the human body.
The ‘bursting’ technology was developed by innovating from other existing SCS therapy. Clinical trials of the other existing SCS treatments reported that some patients developed a tolerance, thereby reducing the treatment’s effectiveness.
This happens when the body becomes accustomed to SCS therapy. As a reaction, the body adapts and ‘tolerates’ the SCS stimulation, thus decreasing its beneficial effects. In short, when they try to ‘fool’ the brain too often that there’s no pain, the body adapts, and the brain isn’t ‘deceived’ anymore.
Healing The Pain
So many Americans are in so much pain that researchers and clinicians are desperately trying to find alternative solutions to the existing modes of treatment and therapy. New technologies for treating chronic pain have been developed by healthcare institutions over the past several years.
Some of these technologies have shown quite promising results in their initial and completed clinical trials. Patients who were given therapy thru these new technologies reported that they felt a significant reduction in the pain they’re suffering and that they’re able to sleep better now.