New therapy offers lasting relief for chronic pain

New therapy offers lasting relief for chronic pain

Imagine this: A patient with chronic pain walks into a doctor’s office and says, “I like my therapy like I like my eggs: Scrambled.”

That old chestnut isn’t quite applicable yet, but it’s close. A study from Johns Hopkins University points to a noninvasive treatment called “scrambler therapy” as a potential solution for those with persistent, treatment-resistant chronic pain.

The team’s review paper, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, described scrambler therapy as yielding significant pain relief for approximately 80% to 90% of patients with chronic pain. Additionally, researchers posited that scrambler therapy may be even more effective than transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, another noninvasive therapy.

So what is scrambler therapy?

Well, it does scramble something — namely, the connections between nerve endings experiencing repeated pain signals by confusing them with areas that aren’t experiencing pain at all. Using electrical stimulation, a physician places electrodes above and below where chronic pain is felt. Think of it like running interference between two people who have been in a conversation whose conclusion is long overdue by connecting them with silent strangers.

The therapy’s effect can be permanent, the study suggests, and lacks the negative effects associated with opioid dependence.

Chronic pain can cause a host of other symptoms, including a decline in mental health and quality of life. Evidence of the effectiveness of a noninvasive treatment can only be good news — even if it does, at first, make us hanker for breakfast.

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