Combining electrical body stimulation with sound may help treat chronic pain

Researchers recently developed a new non pharmaceutical intervention to treat chronic pain involving both electrical stimulation of the body and sound.

The study, published in the Journal of Neural Engineering, was conducted by researchers at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Saint Paul, Minnesota. For their investigation, researchers set out to discover the effectiveness of multisensory therapies to treat chronic pain and other sensory disorders.

Investigators tested the combination of sounds and electrical body stimulation on guinea pigs and found that the intervention activated neurons in the brain’s somatosensory cortex, responsible for touch and pain sensations throughout the body.

According to the study’s authors, these results suggest that this combination of stimulating therapies can modulate firing across specific somatosensory neurons, altering abnormal firing patterns, and leading to a reduction of chronic pain.

Based on their findings, researchers said that this multimodal therapy could be an effective, non-invasive, accessible treatment for those with chronic pain. According to the study, electrical stimulation devices are readily available to the public and can be found at pharmacies and stores.

"Chronic pain is a huge issue for a lot of people, and for most, it's not sufficiently treatable," said the study’s lead author, Cory Gloeckner, PhD, alumnus of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Department of Biomedical Engineering, and an assistant professor at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. "Right now, one of the ways that we try to treat pain is opioids, and we all know that doesn't work out well for many people. This, on the other hand, is a non-invasive, simple application. It's not some expensive medical device that you have to buy in order to treat your pain. It's something that we think would be available to pretty much anyone because of its low cost and simplicity."