By Michael J. Cooney, D.C.
Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Yet, we don’t know how to help people get rid of it, in most cases. It affects 100 million adult Americans, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sometimes medication, therapies and devices just don’t work for many patients living with chronic pain, defined as lasting more than three to six months. In addition, side effects from prescribed opioids can become debilitating, less effective over time, or cost prohibitive.
Despite the alarming prevalence of chronic pain, many people, including healthcare providers, are unaware of the success of a growing number of non-narcotic treatments, supported by considerable research.
It is possible to lessen, and even eliminate pain, without the use of medication.
As a chiropractor who specializes in treating various pain conditions as a result of injury or disease, my biggest frustration is when our tried-and-true treatments do not result in a successful outcome.
Often these patients are forced to seek out more invasive procedures − such as surgically implanted spinal cord stimulators (SCS) or powerful narcotics such as Ketamine − where success has been uneven but the side effects are significant.
What happens to these patients for whom traditional treatments and medications simply don’t work?
Drug-free treatment for neuropathy
To help my own patients, I introduced FDA-cleared Calmare Pain Therapy Treatment (scrambler therapy), a U.S. FDA 510(k)-cleared and European CE mark-certified, non-invasive pain therapy device. This free-standing device is painless for the patient, has no side effects and requires no medication.
The device was developed by Professor Giuseppe Marineo, a researcher and bioengineer and the founder and manager of Delta Research & Development, affiliated with Tor Vergata University of Rome, Italy.
Scrambler therapy has a talk with the brain
The brain’s reaction to chronic pain can be compared to learning to play the piano or memorizing a poem − the more the body “practices” processing pain, the stronger the connections between pain nerves and the brain become.
When someone is injured, the brain sets up a process to heal the injury. For example, cells carry away dead tissue or it increases blood flow to the area. Eventually, the brain realizes the injury has healed and it cuts off the pain message.
But for some, the brain never sends that pivotal message saying “there’s no more injury here so you can stop the pain signal.”
That’s where the scrambler device comes in. Using several small electrodes (think EKG) carefully placed in the region of the injury, the technology sends a mild “no pain” message to the brain through the electrodes. Essentially, the scrambler machine “overrides” the brain’s confused message and corrects it to the ‘no pain here” message.
This process is repeated during 10 daily treatments which last from 30 to 60 minutes. In the majority of cases, by the end of the cycle, there is no more pain signal emanating from the brain. In many cases, pain is lessened for the patient as soon as the first treatment.
What kinds of neuropathic conditions can it help?
We introduced this technology to treat our local treatment-resistant patients here in New Jersey. But to our surprise, patients from as far away as Australia and South Africa have traveled to our clinic for treatment.
I have treated hundreds of patients battling complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a progressive condition characterized by severe pain, inflammation and changes in the skin. Patients commonly describe the pain as a burning sensation, which affects one of the arms, legs, hands or feet. We have seen outstanding outcomes helping more than 85 percent of patients lessen or eliminate pain and physical symptoms.
Scrambler therapy has also been shown to offer successful outcomes for these conditions resulting in chronic pain:
- Low back and neck pain
- Post-surgical pain
- Pain from chemotherapy treatment (CIPN)
- CRPS / RSD
- PHN (Shingles)
- Diabetic neuropathy
Is the device safe and supported by clinical trials?
Scrambler therapy has proven effective in clinical trials and patient outcomes. Teaching hospitals, including the Massey Cancer Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have performed trials and reported significant reductions in pain associated with cancer treatment and other chronic pain conditions. The Mayo Clinic has been engaged in several clinical trials for the past three years.
The importance of discovering alternative treatments for neuropathy
The majority of patients we treat with scrambler therapy arrive at our clinic frustrated and exhausted by the endless search for pain relief. Often, in desperation, they resort to surgery, experimental procedures outside the U.S. or powerful pain medications which leave them mentally and physically diminished by side effects.
I encourage people with treatment-resistant neuropathy and their families to consider less invasive alternative solutions to combat the effects of chronic pain. Surprisingly, the cost can be comparable to prescription medications and in-patient co-pays, in many cases. And the outcome can be life-changing.
Regardless of the pain therapy you choose, keep in mind there are treatments that do not involve narcotics, surgery or invasive procedures which can result in more pain and discomfort. Keep looking, talk to doctors, follow and keep up on the new research. There may very well be a solution out there to minimize your pain. But, often, it’s up to you to discover it.
Dr. Michael J. Cooney has been a doctor of chiropractic for more than 30 years at Rutherford Allied Medical Group and Calmare Therapy NJ located in Rutherford, New Jersey, where he is one of 10 certified providers of Calmare Pain Therapy Treatment in the United States. He can be reached at 201-933-4440.