Could Nerve Stimulation Therapy Provide New Relief Therapy for Fibromyalgia?

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For those suffering from fibromyalgia, the pain can be debilitating. It can make daily life seem almost impossible. Simple tasks like getting up in the morning can be excruciating. Fortunately there are natural treatments to help remedy that pain, including diet and exercise, meditation and yoga.

Though physical activity is encouraged to help mitigate the symptoms, exertion can be difficult, especially when symptoms are severe. It’s a catch-22.

But now fibromalogia specialists might add nerve stimulation as an additional option.

New Hope in Electrical Nerve Therapy

According to a report recently published online in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, the use of TENS — transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation — after just 4 weeks during activity was shown to significantly reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia.

In TENS, a battery-operated machine delivers electrical currents via electrodes attached to the skin in order to activate nerve pathways that inhibit pain.

US News & World Report notes:

“In the study, researchers randomly divided more than 300 women with fibromyalgia into three groups: active TENS; placebo (sham) TENS; or no TENS. Those in the TENS groups were instructed to use the device over four weeks, at home, for two hours daily during activity. The patients were told to apply the device’s electrodes to two specific areas along the back — one upper and one lower — and to activate the machine at a modulated, or varying, frequency at the highest intensity bearable.

After four weeks, participants in the active-TENS group reported significant reductions in movement-and-resting pain and fatigue, especially compared to the no-TENS group.”

Details of the Study

The study represents the culmination of years of animal research conducted by experimenting with variations in the use of TENS. Over time, it was discovered that alternating between low and high frequencies provided the best pain relief. Cranking up the machine to high intensity levels also proved effective. “Strong, but not painful,” described lead study author Kathleen Sluka, a University of Iowa research professor. “This is another tool that’s not a drug that patients can use to manage their pain.”

The Advantages of Electrical Nerve Treatment

The beauty of TENS is it is readily available and poses minimal risk. Devices can be bought over the counter at most drug stores for $50. The main adverse effects reported are a slight irritation when the electrodes are applied.

“TENS is available over the counter, is inexpensive, and is safe and easy to use,” Sluka said. “It can provide a self-management option for people with chronic pain, particularly fibromyalgia, to provide an additional level of pain relief.

Again, it is worth noting that TENS has been found to be a treatment, not a cure for fibromyalgia. It should also be used in conjunction with legacy treatments, including exercise, meditation, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting plenty of rest.

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