At some point in the treatment of many a chronic pain sufferer, conventional medicine reaches a dead end.
That's usually when patients turn to alternative therapies, many of which have little documented evidence of their efficacy.
But an alternative that has been used in Europe and America over the last decade or two – and which is now also available in South Africa – is gaining popularity.
While so-called "microcurrent electrobiologic treatment" isn't exactly a new concept, the technology has now been refined to such an extent that the method is generally regarded as safe, convenient and effective.
How it works
Microcurrent treatment simply involves attaching a device (which can be obtained from a GP) to a belt and connecting it with self-adhesive electrodes to the skin.
After this, the patient pushes a button and a bioelectric current flows to the area of pain. Here it works at a cellular level to help restore the chemical balance in the damaged cells.
According to its proponents, microcurrent treatment reduces inflammation, repairs tissue damage and generally enables the body to stimulate and hasten its natural recovery.
Interestingly, Nobel prize-winning research has shown that electrical activity is integral to all cells.
This type of therapy is "one of medicine's best-kept secrets", Dr Bryan Fehilly, senior partner in a private medical practice in Birmingham (United Kingdom), said at the South African launch of the Elexoma Medic - a state-of the-art device that employs microcurrent technology. Fehilly recently conducted a successful pilot study on the technology in London.
"In effect, it helps the body's cells to do the same thing, but much faster," he says.
Fehilly believes that microcurrent treatment is an important weapon in the arsenal of options for chronic pain, which remains one of the most unrecognised, unaddressed and under-treated health problems of the 21st century.
Without adequate treatment, chronic pain sufferers are generally unable to work or even perform the simplest of tasks. As a consequence, patients often endure psychosocial problems, including poor nutrition, weight loss, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression.
Two in one
An added bonus is that state-of-the-art devices now also combine microcurrent treatment with cranial-electro stimulation to treat patients for stress, depression and other psychological conditions, all of which are associated with chronic pain.
The Elexoma Medic is the world's first dual-action technology healthcare system that treats both muscular and cranial electric stimulation.
With cranial-electro stimulation, electric currents are sent to the brain via ear-attached, clip-on electrodes which help to normalise electrical activity.
This process seems to have a positive effect on dopamine, endorphin and serotonin levels in the brain, improving a patient's sense of well-being, according to the latest research.
"We used cranial electro-biologic stimulation during formal team sessions with ease and absolutely no side-effects," says Dr Tommie Smook of the Bulls rugby team, which used the technology during its victorious Super 14 campaign in 2007. He notes that it helped the team to fight the physical and mental effects of jetlag and that it also added value in the treatment of soft-tissue injuries, pain and insomnia.
Local family physician Dr Rick Kruger believes that we have enough evidence that this type of technology can make a difference in patients' lives – especially in terms of chronic pain, depression, anxiety, stress and jetlag.
For more information, contact the manufacturers of the Elexoma Medic by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
– (Carine van Rooyen, Health24, updated September 2007)
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