Is Electrical Nerve Stimulation The Addiction-Free Answer For Chronic Pain?
By some estimates, around 100 million Americans report suffering from chronic pain. While opioids are addictive and not indicated for chronic pain in many cases, they are still frequently prescribed. Unfortunately, over time, people can develop a condition known as “hyperalgesia” or increased sensitivity to pain.
This condition may lead to abuse, heightened dependency, and even overdose. Indeed, millions of people in the United States are struggling with opioid addiction, both apart from and in conjunction with chronic pain. Thus, many researchers, physicians, and patients alike have been searching for more effective, non-addictive, alternative treatments.
You may have seen commercials on television for the high-frequency, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device Quell. The device wraps around the calf and is designed to block pain signals. It can also track patient use and sleep patterns.
NeuroMetrix is the company responsible for Quell, which has been approved for over-the-counter use – no prescription necessary. NeuroMetrix was founded 20 years ago, a product of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Initially, the company focused on neurodiagnostics, or improved ways of studying nerve conduction. This eventually led to therapeutics, such as the SENSUS, which is the prescription version of Quell.
They are not alone, however, in their approach, and TENS is not even that new. The technology was developed in the 1970s, and companies such as Axiobionics have been manufacturing electrical stimulation devices for two decades.
Quell, as it turns out, takes things a bit farther. The device can be operated through the Android or iOS operating systems, and helps the user customize the electrical dose to ensure safety. It also has a digital health platform, and tracks compliance, as well as sleep patterns. This is important for a couple of reasons.
One, chronic pain can disturb sleep, which then contributes to morepain – it’s a cycle. And TENS devices can have a burn risk. However, Quell has Federal Drug Administration approval for use while sleeping, and has the company has obtained a patent for enhanced safety features that improve device monitoring capabilities, such as skin/electrode impedance.
And the company continues to study Quell and its effects – this year, NeuroMetrix released a safety/efficacy study, which found that the device was safe, and that 80% of participants responded to the treatment. Last June, they also announced a study with Scripps Translational Science Institute that would investigate how Quell influences opioid use among cancer patients.
Products like Quell may be a great boon to those who suffer from chronic pain, and may reduce or eliminate the need for potentially addictive prescription painkillers.
Author’s Note: The purpose of this article is not to advertise for this product. We at Just Believe Recovery are merely providing information about an alternative treatment that may be preferable to opioids for chronic pain.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology