5 Ways Health Tech is Helping People Deal With Pain Without Medication

Five Ways Health Tech is Helping People Deal with Pain without Medication
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According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, more than 100 million Americans suffer from ongoing pain. Pain, particularly chronic pain, can have a profound effect—debilitating and isolating a person while taking over his or her life.

Still not adequately understood, pain has many neurobiological and psychological components. It is widely believed that pain is experienced in unique ways depending on the individual.

New scientific discoveries have helped develop modern painkillers that can manipulate the way neurotransmitters interact with the brain’s signals. Nonetheless, in many cases pain can be difficult to treat and manage, especially if the pain’s origin is elusive. Although pain medications are an invaluable treatment option, pharmaceutical interventions frequently involve various possible side effects, making some patients look for drug-free alternatives. A variety of new technologies now exist that can help relieve chronic pain and offer patients some hope and respite.

1) iTENS – Merging Modern Technology with TENS

This FDA-cleared electrotherapy device is based on the method of transcutaneus electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that has been used for decades in pain management. The iTENS is a portable, wireless TENS device that is smartphone enabled. It can be placed on the pain site and operated and controlled by the user’s iPhone or Android device.

You can install the iTENS app on your smartphone or your tablet and manage the device as well as track your progress.

The iTENS comes in different sizes depending on the treatment area and can be discretely worn under clothing. The option with small wings can be used for smaller and more flexible areas (e.g. ankle, knee, wrist) and the large wings can be used for bigger areas, such as your back and shoulder.

The device’s lithium-ion battery is very efficient and supports daily use.

2) MuscleSound

MuscleSound is a cloud-based software component that works with any diagnostic ultrasound. It is able to measure the muscle’s energy status by looking at the glycogen levels in a noninvasive way. It gives quick and accurate information about the muscle’s composition and any muscle asymmetry.

When we are active, glycogen is the muscle’s main energy source. Low glycogen levels can signal undetected muscle damage. An injured muscle holds less glycogen and during activity, it relies on protein breakdown. This can lead to non-contact injuries as the muscle is actually eating itself. Therefore, this novel method has a huge potential in both detecting early injury and preventing injury and pain. For instance, it alerts you if you have been overtraining or if you are developing tissue damage.

With the help of MuscleSound, athletes can get guidance on how to best recover from injury or muscle fatigue so that more extensive tissue damage does not occur. The scan provides real-time information on the muscle’s recovery after an injury and compares the same muscle on the left and right side of the body to detect asymmetry.

Based on the fuel readings, the user is advised how to best support his or her body to enable swift recovery, for example, through nutrition and rest. This technology also gives information on movement patterns and tells you which muscles are used more and can, therefore, be more exposed to injury.

3) Willow Curve – A Laser Smart Device that Helps Relieve Pain

The Willow Curve device has been designed to help manage pain that accompanies some common conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, knee pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches. It works with the help of photonic and thermal energies that stimulate the healing process of the joints and surrounding tissues.

It helps to reduce pain as well as increase the range of movement. Purportedly, the device has a diagnostic function that is able to make an assessment of each joint before the treatment commences. It is important to note that the scientific rigor of Willow Curve has been questioned, and some experts warn that there is a lack of credible evidence regarding Willow Curve efficacy. Nonetheless, Willow Curve is now a registered medical device with the FDA.

4) Quell – A Wearable Sensor and App for Neuropathy

Quell uses advanced neurotechnology to provide optimal pain relief.

Resembling a sports band, it is placed just below the knee and blocks pain signals with wearable intensive nerve simulation (WINS). Quell regulates the level of pain therapy the person needs and adjusts treatment based on activity level. It also detects when the user is asleep and switches to a gentler mode. The sensor connects to a companion mobile app, which tracks therapy and sleep patterns. The device has been approved by the FDA and offers prescription-strength technology. According to the manufacturer, 67 percent of users report a reduction in their use of pain medication and the device is purported to be effective after the first 15 minutes of use. A study published in the Journal of Pain Research in 2016 also explored the use of this technique in people with chronic low back pain, lower extremity pain and upper extremity pain. The findings showed that 80 percent of users experienced a reduction in chronic pain after using the device.

5) Mindfulness Meditation Apps for Pain Relief

Since pain often includes an emotional and psychological component—especially when it does not go away—different relaxation techniques can be useful in maintaining a positive attitude and controlling the pain. Many different apps and websites now offer valuable material and support tools for meditation practice. One example is the Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief app, designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues. Kabat-Zinn holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and after he was introduced to meditation, he decided to bring mindfulness into mainstream medicine. Despite the growing body of evidence, a meta-analysis performed by a group of scientists from the Guiyang Medical University in China, showed that mindfulness intervention could not be connected with a reduction in pain intensity. Mindfulness did, however, have a positive effect on depression and anxiety that are often present in patients with chronic pain.

Sources

American Society of Anesthesiologists. New technologies can help short circuit chronic pain. 2015. Science Daily.

Gozani S. Fixed-site high-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for treatment of chronic low back and lower extremity pain. Journal of Pain Research, 2016,1: 469-479.

Nieman D, Shanely R, Zwetsloot K, Meaney M, Farris G. Ultrasonic assessment of exercise-induced change in skeletal muscle glycogen content. BMC Sports Science, Medicine & Rehabilitation, 2015;7(1):1-7.

Song Y, Lu H, Chen H, Geng G, Wang J. Original Article: Mindfulness intervention in the management of chronic pain and psychological comorbidity: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Nursing Sciences, 2014;1:215-223.

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