- Pain Management and Bioelectric Therapy Center
- Surprising Reasons You're in Pain Slideshow
- Take the Pain Quiz
- Joint-Friendly Exercises to Reduce RA Pain Slideshow
- Introduction to bioelectric therapy
- What conditions are treated with bioelectric therapy?
- How effective is bioelectric therapy for pain relief?
- What happens during bioelectric therapy?
- What are the side effects of bioelectric therapy?
- How often should people get bioelectric therapy?
- How do people prepare for bioelectric therapy?
Introduction to Bioelectric Therapy
Bioelectric therapy is a safe, drug-free treatment option for people in pain. It is used to treat some chronic pain and acute pain conditions. It relieves pain by blocking pain messages to the brain. When you are injured, pain receptors send a message to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The message is registered as pain by certain cells in the body. Using bioelectric currents, bioelectric therapy relieves pain by interrupting pain signals before they reach the brain. Bioelectric therapy also prompts the body to produce endorphins which help to relieve pain.
What Conditions Are Treated With Bioelectric Therapy?
Bioelectric therapy can be used to treat chronic and acute pain conditions including:
- Complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy or RSD.
- Back pain.
- Muscle pain.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Disorders of blood flow in the upper and lower limbs.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome (which affects the jaw).
- Disorders of the nervous system, such as diabetic neuropathy.
- Pain and ulcers of the skin resulting from poor circulation or scleroderma (a chronic condition that can cause thickening or hardening of the skin).
Bioelectric therapy isn't right for everyone. It is not recommended for people who:
How Effective Is Bioelectric Therapy?
Bioelectric therapy is effective in providing temporary pain control, but it should only be a part of a total pain management program. When used along with conventional pain-relieving medications, bioelectric treatment may reduce the dose of some pain medications by up to 50%.
What Happens During Bioelectric Therapy?
During bioelectric therapy, several small, flat rubber adhesive discs (called electrodes) are applied to your skin at prescribed areas to be treated. Sometimes rubber suction cups (called vaso pneumatic devices) may be applied to your skin. The electrodes are hooked up to a computer that programs the precise treatment dosage required. High frequency alternating electrical currents are then applied to the electrodes. The currents move through the skin quickly with little discomfort. During treatment, your response to the electrical stimulation is measured.
When electricity is applied, a mild vibrating, tingling sensation is common. This sensation should not be uncomfortable; you should feel a relaxing, soothing pain relief. As the currents are applied, you will provide verbal feedback to the clinician. If the sensation becomes too strong, please tell the clinician right away so the treatment can be adjusted. You should be comfortable and enjoy the treatment, which lasts about 20 minutes.
What Are the Side Effects of Bioelectric Therapy?
In rare cases, skin irritation and redness can occur under the electrodes during bioelectric therapy.
How Often Should I Get Bioelectric Therapy?
The number of bioelectric therapy sessions required depends on each person's condition and response to treatment. One bioelectric therapy session does not usually result in pain relief. Therapy usually begins with about five sessions in one week, followed by three treatments per week. A normal course of treatment includes 16 to 20 treatments.
How Do I Prepare for Bioelectric Therapy?
If you are taking insulin or blood-thinning medications, your doctor may give you specific instructions to follow before getting bioelectric therapy.
You may be asked to fast before the procedure, and you may need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after treatment.
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Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 12, 2012
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Brain PictureThe brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body. See a picture of the Brain and learn more about the health topic.
Chronic PainChronic pain is pain (an unpleasant sense of discomfort) that persists or progresses over a long period of time. In contrast to acute pain that arises suddenly in response to a specific injury and is usually treatable, chronic pain persists over time and is often resistant to medical treatments.
Diabetic neuropathy a condition in which nerve damage has occurred as a complication of diabetes. The pain from the nerve damage can be severe with tingling or numbness in the part of the body affected. Diabetic neuropathy can occur anywhere in the body. Diabetic neuropathy can cause symptoms like intense pain, numbness, burning, or tingling in the part of the body affected by the condition.
There are four types of neuropathy include peripheral, autonomic, proximal and focal. Natural therapies and medications may help relieve the pain and other symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
Headaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
Low Back PainThere are many causes of back pain. Pain in the low back can relate to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen, and the skin covering the lumbar area.
MigraineMigraine headache is a type of headache associated with a sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, eye pain, severe pounding on one side of the head, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The exact cause of migraine headaches is not known.
Triggers for migraine headaches include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, strong stimuli (loud noises), and oversleeping.
Treatment guidelines for migraines include medicine, pain management, diet changes, avoiding foods that trigger migraines, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and exercising regularly. Prevention of migraine triggers include getting regular exercise, drinking water daily, reducing stress, and avoiding trigger foods.
Muscle PainMyofascial pain syndrome is muscle pain in the body's soft tissues due to injury or strain. Symptoms include muscle pain with tender points and fatigue. Treatment usually involves physical therapy, massage therapy, or trigger point injection.
Pain ManagementPain management and treatment can be simple or complex, according to its cause. There are two basic types of pain, nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. Some causes of neuropathic pain include:
- complex regional pain syndrome,
- interstitial cystitis,
- and irritable bowel syndrome.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD) is a condition that features atypical symptoms including pain (often "burning" type), tenderness, and swelling of an extremity associated with varying degrees of sweating, warmth and/or coolness, flushing, discoloration, and shiny skin. RSD is also referred to as "the shoulder-hand syndrome." Treatment response is greater in earlier stages than later stages.
SclerodermaScleroderma is an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. It is characterized by the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) in the skin and organs of the body, leading to thickness and firmness of involved areas. Scleroderma is also referred to as systemic sclerosis, and the cause is unknown. Treatment of scleroderma is directed toward the individual features that are most troubling to the patient.
Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a disorder that causes symptoms like pain, clicking, and popping of the jaw. TMJ is caused by injury to the temporomandibular joint. Stress, poor posture, jaw trauma, genetic predisposition, and inflammatory disorders are risk factors for the condition. A variety of self-care measures (application of ice, use of over-the-counter pain medication, massage, relaxation techniques) and medical treatment options (dental splint, Botox, prescription medications, surgery) are available to manage TMJ. The prognosis of TMJ is good with proper treatment.