Chronic pain affects more than 51 million Americans, making it a more common long-term condition than depression and diabetes. Despite advances in the development of non-opioid therapeutics, most treatment focuses on pain management. However, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center believe there is a non-invasive method of treating chronic pain that could not only relieve it for a short time, but potentially make it permanent.
Scrambler therapy is a non-invasive treatment method in which electrical stimulation is delivered via electrodes to areas surrounding the source of chronic pain. In an analysis of 381 randomized clinical trials, experts found that scrambler therapy provides significant relief in 80-90% of patients. It may be more effective than transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which similarly uses electrical stimulation with electrodes but directs currents to the pain nerves.
“Scrambler therapy is the most exciting development I’ve seen in years: it’s effective, non-invasive, significantly reduces opioid use, and can be permanent,” said lead study author Dr. Thomas Smith, professor of oncology and medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
How does scrambler therapy work?
Scrambler therapy aims to capture nerve endings from damaged nerves, which are also the source of pain, and replace pain signals with signals from neighboring nerves, essentially “scrambling” information to the brain. Blocking this signal transmission eliminates the connection between the damaged nerves and the brain that has caused the disease to become chronic.
“If you can block the upward pain impulses and strengthen the inhibitory system, you can potentially reset the brain so that it doesn’t feel chronic pain as acutely,” Dr. Smith says. “It’s like pressing Control-Alt-Delete a billion times.”
According to Smith, who is also a chronic pain physician, after three to twelve half-hour sessions, patients experience “really significant relief that can often be permanent.”
The Future of Scrambler Therapy
Researchers hope to conduct more studies on the benefits of scrambler therapy, which was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in 2009. Scrambler therapy could be a game changer for those suffering from chronic pain and significantly reduce opioid use. The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people around the world. While there are many treatments available, most are aimed at managing pain rather than curing it. Scrambler therapy is a non-invasive treatment method that aims to replace pain signals with signals from neighboring nerves, essentially “scrambling” information to the brain. Three to twelve half-hour sessions result in patients receiving significant relief, which can often be permanent. Scrambler therapy can be a game changer for those suffering from chronic pain and can significantly reduce opioid use.