A prescription brain stimulator is easing severe chronic pain without the side effects of drugs. A study published in this month's issue of the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology found that a very low current device applied to the brain via ear clip electrodes eased the pain of fibromyalgia, a severe diffuse pain syndrome often considered a form of arthritis.
The principal investigator, Alan Lichtbroun, MD, a board-certified rheumatologist in New Jersey found the device manufactured by Electromedical Products International, Inc., called the Alpha-Stim 100, was as effective as prescription drugs in relieving pain, but completely safe. Drugs used in the treatment of fibromyalgia cause side effects in as many as 20 percent of the patients who use them.
The current from the Alpha-Stim is normally very low, but for the study it was set even lower, below the level where people can feel it. Treatment was given daily for three weeks. A matched group of fibromyalgia sufferers underwent the same procedure without any current. They had no effect from the sham treatment proving it was the stimulation that worked, not just belief in the procedure. After the study the patients who did not receive actual treatment were treated by the device in the normal way, where they could set the current higher and use the device longer. They then had slightly better results than the experimental treatment group.
The study also found that while 60 percent of the patients rated their sleep as poor entering the study, only 5 percent continued to have problems sleeping after the three weeks of treatment. Feelings of well-being and quality of life measures also improved substantially.
The Alpha-Stim is called a cranial electrotherapy stimulator, or CES for short. It uses up to 600 microamperes typically applied for 20 minutes to an hour every other day. That is about 11,000 times less current than needed to light a typical 60 Watt light bulb. It was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia, but it is also being used by physicians to treat severe forms of chronic pain, since pain is processed and felt in the nervous system, which is controlled by the brain.
The device is made by Electromedical Products International, Inc. located in Mineral Wells, Texas. A spokesperson for the manufacturer said this is the best month for publications in the company's 20 year history. Another peer- reviewed study published this month in the American Journal of Pain Management documented treatment outcomes of 2,500 patients. Of those there were 363 fibromyalgia patients, 91 percent of whom reported significant improvement in their condition. These patients all used the Alpha-Stim for at least 3 weeks according to the author, Ray Smith, PhD, MPA. Similar results were reported for other pains, including migraine and other headaches, backache, and neck pain.
The journal Practical Pain Management is publishing a third article on the device this month, offering physicians a basic treatment protocol by the inventor of the device, neuroscientist Daniel Kirsch, PhD. It is the second of a series of three articles by Dr. Kirsch about low level electrical stimulation therapy including cranial electrotherapy stimulation.
More information about the technology can be found on the company's website: www.alpha-stim.com .
Source: Electromedical Products International, Inc.