Medical therapy

Electro-medical therapy can help treat intractable pain — Pain News Network

By Forest Tennant, PNN Columnist

To maximize relief and recovery from intractable pain syndrome (IPS), it is advisable to use one or more electro-medical (EM) therapies. All individuals with IPS are strongly encouraged to try a variety of EM therapies, but only in addition or in addition to their current medical treatment.

Electric current devices

Electric current (EC) therapy is probably the best known of the EM therapies. Electrical currents primarily have a numbing effect, much like a local anesthetic such as lidocaine. They anesthetize the nerves or nerve roots in the spinal cord and provide temporary pain relief. In some cases, EC therapy can even provide long-term pain relief because electrical currents sometimes reset the electrical conduction of nerves.

EC devices can vary, like light bulbs, in power and frequency. An advance is called “micro current”. This is a low power frequency in which current can be passed through the earlobe or scalp to treat headaches or central pain.

Electrical currents of different strengths and frequencies are now combined in products and devices such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators (TENS units), Calmare “Scrambler” therapy and spinal cord stimulators. Devices with several currents generally provide a superior result compared to a single current device.

Unfortunately, only a therapeutic trial will tell you which EC therapy will help you. Many self-help TENS units are available for home use, and they should be tried. All people with SPI as a result of stroke or head trauma should consider a trial with microcurrent therapy.

If you find an EC device that gives you relief, don’t use it every day. As with medication, you may become tolerant and the device will become ineffective. Allow at least a day between treatments.

Electromagnetic devices

Electromagnetic devices (EMT) are new to pain treatment and are quite different from EC devices as they use 50% electric and 50% magnetic energy. Energy is made up of subatomic particles that are usually not visible to the naked eye.

EMT energy is generated by devices that manipulate the electrical current present in every battery or household electrical outlet. The energy is condensed into a wave that can be sent into human tissue with a wand, probe, or emitter plate. The energy wave can be delivered at different frequencies and wavelengths that vary from a very slow, long wave to a very fast, short wave.

The three main types of EMT are laser, infrared, and radio. Infrared is a low frequency long wave, while radio has long, slow waves. Lasers can emit infrared waves and also emit high energy visible frequencies that can cut, dissolve or remove tissue.

In medical administration, long slow waves can penetrate several centimeters into the human body, while high frequency short waves of laser and infrared normally do not penetrate human tissue more than one inch. Some devices pulse the waves to achieve deeper tissue penetration. These devices are known as “Pulsed Electromagnetic Energy Frequency” or PEMF.

Lasers may be able to eliminate or totally dissolve a pain “trigger”. For example, an experienced practitioner may be able to identify a pain trigger along the spine, or neuropathy in the face or extremities, and actually cure the condition with laser treatment.

Infrared is the most effective EMT for relieving pain from a recent injury to the spine, joints, or soft tissues. It is quite effective for bruises or joint swelling. Infrared can also help push medicine through the skin, so it is very effective if cortisone cream is applied to the skin during infrared treatment.

Radio waves penetrate deeply. Their best use appears to be for spinal conditions, including herniated discs and other inflammatory spinal conditions, such as arachnoiditis. Deep penetrating radio waves are likely to reach, at least in some cases, the interior of the spinal canal.

Main point to remember

Patients with SPI are constantly bombarded with the idea that they need an electromagnetic “savior” such as an implanted electrical stimulator, or expensive multi-electric current or electromagnetic therapy. Parties selling and promoting these devices are invariably unaware of the serious and relatively rare condition of IPS.

EC and EMT devices are designed for acute or short-term pain and injury problems, not constant incurable pain with cardiovascular, endocrine, and autoimmune complications.

Implanted electrical stimulators may be a “godsend” for some IPS patients, but they may not work or even cause more pain for others. This is why trials are carried out before implantation. The big problem is that there’s so much money to be made with implanted pacemakers that some unethical practitioners don’t tell you they’re primarily for breakthrough pain.

Implanted pacemakers carry many risks, so every IPS patient must follow a 3-component medical program that combines suppression of inflammation, repair of damaged tissue, and pain control.

Once you are on this 3-component protocol and have a good nutritional and physical program firmly in place, then give electromedical measures a try. Simple measures like soaking in water or using magnets can also be very helpful. Electromagnetic delivery is relatively new and promising!

Forest Tennant has retired from clinical practice, but continues to research refractory pain and arachnoiditis. This column is adapted from the bulletins recently published by the IPS Research and Education Project of the Tennant Foundation. Readers interested in subscribing to the newsletter can register by by clicking here.

The Tennant Foundation financially supports Pain News Network and its sponsors PNN Patient Resource Section.