According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, about 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. Although the frequency of the disease increases with age, an estimated 4% of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50.
In some people, the degenerative disorder can be resistant to standard treatment. A new study published in Bioelectronic Medicine is exploring the use of electric shock stimulation to the spinal cord as a way to relieve pain and improve mobility.
Researchers recruited participants with Parkinson’s whose chronic pain was unaffected by pain relief medication, including nerve blocks. Electrodes were surgically implanted under the participants’ skin near their spines.
Participants could opt to receive light electrical currents in three different stimulation modes: continuous, in a burst or a cycling mode with bursts, which stimulated the spine for 10 to 15 seconds at a time, with intermittent pauses.
Using a visual scale to report pain intensity, those who had not experienced any prior electrical stimulation, like deep brain stimulation, experienced a 57% reduction. Participants who had previous stimulation reported a pain intensity reduction of 61%.
Participant mobility showed some improvement, as well. Researchers gauged their ease of movement through a series of tests, including a 10-meter walk and the amount of time it took a participant to get up from a chair, walk three meters, walk back and sit down.
While further research is needed to rule out factors like the placebo effect, the findings could be a jolt to the efforts to ease pain for Parkinson’s patients.