How Sound and Electrical Body Stimulation Could Help Treat Chronic Pain

  • Around 20% of all adults worldwide live with chronic pain.
  • Researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered through an animal model that the combination of electrical and sound stimulation has the potential to treat chronic pain.
  • The scientists hope their model will provide a non-invasive, drug-free treatment for chronic pain symptoms.

The researchers estimate about 20% of all adults around the world live with chronic pain, a condition that can affect a person’s daily life physically, mentally and emotionally.

Treatment for chronic pain may include different types of medications, Changes in lifestyleand different types of therapies, both traditional and alternative.

Now, building on findings through an animal model, a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities say a combination of sound and electrical bodily stimulation has the potential to treat chronic pain.

This study was recently published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

When you are injured, the nerves notify the central nervous system of what has happened. The brain then interprets what has occurred as pain.

Normally, the amount of pain a person feels decreases as the injury heals.

However, sometimes a person’s nerves keep sending pain signals to the central nervous system, make the brain think they still have pain, resulting in chronic pain.

Certain types of injuries have a higher rate of developing chronic pain, including:

And chronic pain can also occur after a person experiences a very painful illness, such as:

In addition to pain, people with chronic pain may also experience:

Doctors typically treat chronic pain with a combination of pain relievers. These include over-the-counter pain relievers, opioids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antidepressants that help block pain signals in the body. Also, doctors may suggest lifestyle changes to help relieve pain, such as physical therapy, massage, and meditation.

Researchers have also looked at alternative therapies to treat chronic pain, including acupuncture and electrical stimulation.

For the new study, the researchers wanted to use a mouse model to investigate how bimodal sensory stimulation, both sound and electrical, would affect or alter neural activity in the somatosensory cortex. The somatosensory complex is the area of ​​the brain responsible for receiving sensory information, such as pain.

“We wanted to determine whether repeatedly combining sound and body stimulation would change the encoding patterns in somatosensory cortical neuronsexplained Cory Gloeckner, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at John Carroll University and lead author of the study. MNT.

“Some sensory disorders, such as chronic pain and tinnitus, are linked to abnormal coding patterns of neurons in the sensory cortex, so the ability to noninvasively modulate or change coding patterns in these neurons could help.” treat these sensory disorders.

To investigate their hypothesis, Dr. Gloeckner and his team applied broadband sound and electrical stimulation to a model guinea pig.

During the study, the researchers found that the combination of stimuli activated neurons in the somatosensory cortex of the brain.

“From previous studies, we know that there are also overlapping brain regions for auditory and somatosensory perception maps,” said Dr. Gloeckner. “And we already know that somatosensory signals can induce long-term changes in the neurons of the auditory system; So, we hypothesized and investigated how well sound stimuli could modulate activity in the somatosensory cortex.”

“We found that while sound stimulation alone only affects a small subset of neurons in the somatosensory cortex, sound stimuli affect almost all of the neurons that we register in the somatosensory cortex when combined with body electrical stimulation. It was unexpected and impressive that a sound stimulus could affect much of the somatosensory cortex.”

– Dr. Cory Gloeckner, PhD, assistant professor at John Carroll University and lead author of the study

Dr Gloeckner continued: “In a practical sense, this means we can use sound stimuli to potentially modulate neurons in the somatosensory cortex relevant to the treatment of chronic pain, which has been linked to coding patterns in the somatosensory cortex.” .

Dr. Gloeckner noted that the study does not directly show that bimodal stimulation treats chronic pain in humans.

“This is an early animal study investigating a potential mechanism with promising results, but it should be tested in humans to determine its efficacy in treating pain,” he added. “Since our treatment would be non-invasive, the next step would be to test it directly in humans to see if it can have a significant impact on chronic pain symptoms.”

Dr. Gloeckner said it’s important for medical professionals to have non-drug options available to treat chronic pain.

“Medications, including opioids, are common treatments used to reduce symptoms, but they are not effective enough for many people, and opioid addiction has become a massive problem in the United States,” he explained.

“Our potential treatment, on the other hand, is a noninvasive approach that could be easy to use and doesn’t involve any drugs. It can be implemented with simple, inexpensive equipment that can be accessible to patients and can also be even more acceptable than drugs or surgery.”

MNT He also spoke with Dr. Medhat Mikhael, a pain management specialist and medical director of the nonoperative program at Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, who was not involved in this study.

He said he has been using electrical stimulation through a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit or implantable deviceand meditation through music to help patients with chronic pain for some time.

“In the old days, we relied on medication to help. Many medications that help with pain…have side effects and risk of addiction, risk of dependence and tolerance, and…could make the patient have strange sensations, feel dizzy, [and] feel nauseous all the time. If you can use something that doesn’t negatively affect your central nervous system or cause you side effects or risks, like dependency, tolerance, addiction, that’s a blessing.”

– Dr. Medhat Mikhael, pain management specialist and medical director at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center

For the next steps in this research, Dr. Mikhael said he would like researchers to look at neuromodulation through stimulation of the central nervous system, as well as look at the difference between older technologies and newer technology that clinicians they now use to deliver electrical stimulation to the central nervous system. nervous system.

“Researchers like this would encourage insurance companies to approve things like this because short-term cost might be a concern,” Dr. Mikhael said.

“But if you look at the long term, that these patients with these implantable devices are no longer hospitalized, no longer have surgeries, no longer go to the emergency room, no longer use oral medications, that makes a big difference. Short-term upfront costs avoid a lot of the very high long-term costs over the years.”

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