Research Finds Electrical And Sound Stimulation Could Help Treat Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a term that might get thrown around often, but if it's something you live with, it's far from casual. Chronic pain can affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and treatments can include a multitude of medications. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Neural Engineering may have discovered a non-drug, non-invasive approach to treating chronic pain.

When you get hurt, your nerves send a message to your central nervous system (via MedicalNewsToday). This alerts your brain, which translates the message into pain. Sometimes, the nerves don't stop sending the messages, even once the body has healed from the injury or trauma. This results in chronic pain.

Chronic pain can be due to ongoing illnesses like cancer or arthritis, an injury like a broken bone, or other diseases (via the Cleveland Clinic). Sometimes, there's no obvious cause of the pain, which has to last for at least three months to be classified as chronic. This is called psychogenic or psychosomatic pain, and it can be linked to anxiety, depression, and stress. People with chronic pain often describe sensations of aching, throbbing, burning, stinging, and stiffness, which can lead to fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

Chronic pain can be challenging to treat since it's often hard to identify the cause (via WebMD). Treatment options include nonprescription and prescription drugs, physical therapy, exercise, talk therapy, acupuncture, and massage.

A combination approach could help

The new study published in the Journal of Neural Engineering explored the effects of electrical and sound stimulation on the part of the brain that controls pain (via MedicalNewsToday). Using guinea pigs, researchers applied electrical and sound stimulation to neurons in the somatosensory cortex. Chronic pain is associated with unusual patterns in these neurons, so the research team wanted to see if combining these two methods could shift the patterns. They found that this combination was successful in activating the somatosensory cortical neurons, which could potentially be used in humans to treat chronic pain.

Dr. Cory Gloeckner of John Carroll University, the lead author of the study, said that while this research is promising, more studies are needed to determine if the effect will translate to humans. This simple, inexpensive, noninvasive treatment could change the landscape for treating chronic pain, especially since it doesn't involve the use of drugs. Opioids are a standard chronic pain treatment, and they often aren't effective in treating it and can easily lead to addiction.