Nothing says “something is wrong with your body” like pain. This primal sensation is what has kept us alive as a species and the brain does what it can to ensure that we feel them properly. Our nerves do a great job of delivering messages to the brain to make sure we are aware that something is damaged.
That’s not always the case though. Nerve and brain damage can sometimes cause the brain to feel pain even though nothing is particularly wrong with the area. One of these cases of chronic pain is called Neuropathy.
Neuropathy and Pain
There are many cases of Neuropathy and other chronic pain issues. But the most common reason why it happens is due to nerve damage, or issues with the way the brain perceives pain. There are treatments for these, including drugs such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and opioid-type pain relievers. These treatments are proven to work time and time again, but like all drugs, they have their own share of issues and drawbacks. One such drawback is toxicity due to constant exposure to the drugs. There’s also nerve surgery which is effective, but is invasive and could cut a deep hole in your pocket unless you have really good insurance.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: Old Tech, New Ways
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has been used decades ago, but not as a form of treatment. TMS was used as a way to map out brain damage and function in stroke patients and patients who suffered head trauma. Recent discoveries in brain function revealed that activating parts of your brain using electromagnetic pulses can “train” it to function better, or at least back to normal.
TMS is basically putting a magnet over your head and using that magnet. The magnet delivers electromagnetic pulses to your brain. The cells of your brain react to these electromagnetic waves. They activating them as if the brain itself commanded them to. The process harmless and adverse effects are both rare and conditional. These effects included motion sickness or chronic migraines. The procedure lasts for 30-60 minutes. These are done daily for 4-6 weeks, but some programs may differ in frequency.
Promising TMS Treatments for Chronic Pain
There are few approved TMS therapies for chronic pain. Progress is increasingly good. Clinical trials with large sample groups have shown that the therapy causes an analgesic effect that gives temporary relief from chronic pain. Further clinical trials explored different frequencies and methods on a multitude of patients. These revealed that electromagnetic stimulation not only creates an analgesic effect but also “train” parts of the brain to adjust to the pain caused by Neuropathy. This could lead to more permanent ways to reduce the pain, or even lead to curing it.
People who suffer from depression due to their chronic pain issues will find themselves relieved of the depression as well. TMS deep brain stimulation can help the brain generate dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or brain chemical responsible for happiness. Solving depression and relieving pain using a non-invasive, non-health-detrimental procedure ought to cause a euphoria more rewarding than any drug.
Before modern techniques, electrodes were surgically implanted in the brain to treat pain. But this invasive procedure has many drawbacks. Nowadays, a non-invasive treatment for pain holds promise for patients. This popular treatment is called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
Before we delve into TMS, let us dig deeper into the mechanism of pain.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain refers to the pain that lasts more than 6 months. This painful experience can range from mild to excruciating degrees. It may also be continuous or episodic. When the pain is both continuous and excruciating, patients are often left unable to complete daily tasks. It leads to both physical and emotional problems. This, in turn, leads to negativity at work, home, business, relationships, and mental health.
Chronic pain is usually caused by trauma (e.g. injury, accidents). It can also be caused by an illness or infection. Signs and symptoms of chronic pain include the following:
- Recurring or ongoing pain that does not go away
- Mild to excruciatingly severe pain
- Sensations of shooting, aching, burning
- Stiffness, soreness, discomfort, and tightness
- Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, irritability, stress, and low self-esteem
TMS For Pain Management And Treatment
TMS is used to treat chronic pain and major depression. The brain’s circuit activity is altered by the magnetic field produced by TMS. This method has a huge advantage over pain prescription medications. Drugs usually get inside the body causing a large number of side effects. On the other hand, TMS produces minor side effects since the therapy is directly delivered to the brain.
Evidence Of TMS Efficiency In Treating Pain
A study has found out that the repetitive implementation of TMS to patients resulted in a consistent reduction of pain scores. The results showed that pain scores were reduced by 15% for a week. But, scientists encourage more research in regard to TMS. This is to improve its efficiency in managing and treating pain.
How Is TMS Applied?
Clinical studies found out that the motor cortex is the best target for TMS and its treatment of pain. Repetitive TMS (rTMS) is also given to patients. In this method, series of pulses are targeted to the brain and is delivered in rapid succession. This is all done in a single session. But, different techniques are applied to different people. This is due to the fact that people vary in their reactions to TMS treatments.
To provide a long-lasting pain treatment, multiple sessions of repetitive TMS (rTMS) is delivered to the patient. Multiple sessions affects the connectivity of the brain. It can alter the circuits responsible for pain thus reducing it. Some treatments are required to be administered daily during the early phases. Then, it is reduced to weekly therapies and monthly therapies. Treatments can last for months or even year.
TMS is best used to treat pain and depression. It is recommended for those who experience debilitating side effects from prescription medications. TMS is used to alter brain activity. Doing this non-invasive procedure also results in a few side effects, making it a great alternative for those who don’t respond well to medication.