Chronic pain can be incredibly debilitating to those who suffer from it. Anything that lessens the pain is often sought out and attempted by any patient who suffers. Unfortunately, opioids for pain have created an enormous problem in America, with over 40 people succumbing to overdoses of opioid addiction on a daily basis. Advancements in modern technology are helping to reduce the dependence on opioid medications and treat pain without the need for addictive drugs.
Over the past few decades, engineers and scientists have been developing ways to manage chronic pain with technology assisted devices. Some methods include neuromodulation, radiofrequency ablation, and positive reinforcement.
Jack Miletic of Delray Beach explains that these technologies, as well as other modalities are constantly being developed. While they do not yet replace helpful, non-addictive prescriptions and other medical treatments, technology can be a great assistant with the management of chronic pain. So, how does this technology help?
The three methods of technology-assisted pain management mentioned above are very broad categories. The way that they are applied can vary greatly based on the patient, cause of pain, and area of pain in which the patient suffers.
Neuromodulation, or nerve stimulation, can be applied to several different areas of the body. As for the devices, they are either worn on a specific area of the body, or surgically implanted. While this wearable tech does not require a prescription, there are instances when it should not be used, and is determined on a case-by-case basis.
By stimulating specific nerves, neuromodulation devices and treatments can prevent or reduce the pain signals that reach the brain.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is similar to neuromodulation in that it directly affects a specific area of the body. Using a medical probe, doctors can use these radio frequencies to kill the cells in a small area on the body. This technology has various applications.
In the context of chronic pain, RFA can be used to remove the nerves that send pain signals to the brain. By doing so, patients will feel drastic relief from pain, with effects lasting as long as one year.
On the other hand, positive reinforcement technology does not directly affect the body but the mind. One example includes an experiment on the efficacy of sonification devices to reinforce physiotherapy.
These devices draw attention to a patient’s movements that are conducive to healing and pain management. By validating the movement, the patient is then encouraged by their own progress.
Developments in Technology for Pain
While these technologies have been around since the 1960s, there have been great advancements within the last decade, which are continually being built upon.
In the field of neuromodulation, new target areas and electrical stimulation methods have been discovered in the past 10 years. As doctors continue to understand how stimulating new areas can affect different types of chronic pain, more options for chronic pain sufferers have been brought to light.
Radiofrequency ablation is being developed and utilized more than ever in chronic pain cases. Doctors and scientists are discovering new ways that the technology can be used in different methods as well. The same goes for less direct approaches such as sonification.
Patients suffering from chronic pain often have a bleak outlook on their future. However, as medical technology becomes more advanced, chronic pain will become more manageable in various ways. With each passing year, technology advancements, clinical trials, and reduced dependency on prescription medications will create a wide space for technology as it will become greatly utilized in the field, no longer as alternative treatments, or assisted modalities, but as the number one treatment for pain.