In most hospitals, pharmaceuticals are the first response to pain. RML’s rehab team is currently trialing non-pharmacological alternatives to pain management.
Rehab therapists are testing a wearable device that uses electrical stimulation to trigger pain relief responses in the brain. The stimulator is worn on the upper calf, activating sensory nerves in the leg. This stimulation signals the brain to release endogenous opioids, which block pain signals in the body.
How does electricity alleviate pain? Researchers believe the electrical impulses interrupt messages about pain sent from the nerves to the brain. The electricity blocks the activity of the pain receptors. If the brain doesn't get these messages from the nerves, it doesn't know that there is pain. Researchers also believe that electrical stimulation encourages the body to produce more of its own endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
This pain controlling alternative is technological rather than pharmaceutical. Rehab services at RML also use other non-pharmacological, complementary techniques to reduce pain including:
- soft tissue mobilization,
- hot or cold packs,
- and empathy and compassion.