In a significant development for chronic pain management, experts have unveiled the potential of scrambler therapy as a noninvasive treatment. The therapy, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2009, utilises electrical stimulation through skin electrodes placed strategically above and below the areas affected by chronic pain.
Chronic pain and neuropathic pain primarily arise from two sources, as explained by Dr. Thomas Smith, professor of palliative medicine at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and a professor of oncology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Firstly, damaged nerves continuously transmit pain signals to the brain. Secondly, inhibitory cells fail to halt these signals from evolving into chronic pain.
Scrambler therapy offers a novel approach to interrupt this painful cycle. By substituting pain signals from the affected area with signals from pain-free adjacent regions, it effectively “scrambles” the pain messages reaching the brain. Dr. Smith poetically likens this process to “pressing Control-Alt-Delete about a billion times.” The results are highly promising, with approximately 80% to 90% of chronic pain patients experiencing significant relief following just three to twelve half-hour sessions.
Dr. Smith, a dedicated practitioner in chronic pain management, lauds scrambler therapy as a groundbreaking development. He highlights its effectiveness, noninvasiveness, substantial reduction in opioid use, and the potential for long-lasting relief. This research opens up new possibilities for managing chronic pain and offers hope to countless individuals suffering from long-term pain conditions.
In comparison, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), another noninvasive therapy that delivers low-intensity electrical signals through skin electrodes directly at the pain sites, has demonstrated limitations. Pain relief from TENS often diminishes when the electrical impulses cease. A comprehensive evaluation of TENS in 381 randomized clinical trials, cited in the review paper, found no statistically significant difference in pain relief between TENS and a placebo procedure.