Electric currents could be the answer to pain relief for arthritis

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  • Arthritis is a condition that requires effective pain management
  • Treatment options tend to become less effective over time
  • Researchers are studying a new, improved treatment which is effective over a longer period 

Arthritis is a condition that affects approximately 350 million people around the globe. Because arthritis is so painful, finding effective relief is imperative for sufferers. 

Steroid injections serve as a common treatment option for pain associated with arthritis.

Although generally effective for the first few months, these injections come with a range of undesirable side effects, such as pain and discomfort a few days after administration. It also spikes blood sugar levels in diabetics and causes temporary bruising.

According to Dr Felix M. Gonzalez, from the Radiology Department at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, “usually, over time, patients become less responsive to these injections”. Another option to help alleviate the painful symptoms of arthritis is through taking opiates, which are highly addictive. 

Stun’ the pain away

Researchers have been testing an experimental treatment that may serve as an alternative to steroid injections and opiates. The research, based on the new treatment, was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). The treatment involves inserting needles into the areas of the main nerves in the shoulder and hip.

These needles deliver electric currents to "stun" the nerves, slowing down pain signals to the brain. Dr Gonzalez and his team conducted a study involving 33 people with osteoarthritis who underwent the treatment. Twelve of the participants had shoulder pain and 11 had hip pain, and all of them had stopped responding to pain control medication or steroid injections. 

Promising pain treatment

The researchers found no complications associated with the treatment during the study, and all the patients involved had a statistically significant reduction in pain. Patients with shoulder pain reported an 85% decrease in pain, and patients with hip pain reported a 70% reduction in pain.

 Dr Gonzalez expressed that this treatment is not solely for arthritic pain, but can be applied to many other conditions that cause pain. 

He went on to say: “We would like to explore the efficacy of the treatment on patients in other settings like trauma, amputations and especially in cancer patients with metastatic disease.

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