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Have you heard the term “game-changer”? That term is often used to describe something that is so remarkable and revolutionary that the arena in which it appears will be forever changed. This article describes just such a development.

I have been following research topics dealing with new approaches to chronic pain for decades. It is especially important to search for successful new approaches now that the entire world is realizing the dangers of opioids.

Opioids have been the mainstay of dealing with chronic pain for a long while. Going back to the days of opium dens in the 1800s and beyond, opium and the synthetic offspring have brought the blessing of relief from pain along with the curse of addiction.

While I am thankful that pharmaceutical products based on opioid chemistry exist, for the sake of those facing severely painful conditions, seeing the terrible destruction that results from the addictive aspect of these drugs inspires me to continue to search for better ways to help people in pain.

The treatments that we have provided for the past 30 years have often been very remarkable in terms of success. In fact, our medical acupuncture has helped numerous patients dealing with chronic pain reduce or often completely eliminate opioid medications that they have relied on for years. To see patients literally get their lives back is extraordinarily satisfying.

Local physicians have also discovered that our medical acupuncture can be very effective for a wide range of chronic pain conditions. We have welcomed hundreds of patients referred by their medical physician.

More than 30 years ago, I was responsible for training doctors in the use of the most advanced electronic treatment for painful conditions that existed at the time. The technology utilized then was considered cutting edge because we could significantly reduce a patient’s pain in minutes by attaching electrodes to the skin and sending an electronic signal through the body to stimulate the nervous system in a way to reduce pain.

As the years went by, advances in technology allowed manufacturers to make the devices smaller and eventually very affordable. This was the history of the devices commonly known today as TENS units.  TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator.

Many patients are familiar with TENS units. The devices are so ubiquitous today that people naturally tend to generalize and think they are all alike. What patients, and unfortunately many providers don’t realize, is that there a numerous kinds of TENS units and each device can actually be programmed in hundreds of different ways. Therefore, the effectiveness of a TENS unit depends on the proper selection of the device, the proper programming by the clinician, and finally on the proper placement of electrodes and operation by the user.  

I have seen cases where the wrong type of unit was prescribed or it was programmed incorrectly by the clinician or was used improperly by the patient. Not surprisingly in those kinds of situations the patient derived little benefit from the device.

Although the application of TENS can be very helpful, they are limited by the amount of pain relief and the temporary nature of the relief they can provide. 

A couple of years ago I was introduced to a completely new technology by Peter Beltran, the president of NeuroMed. NeuroMed had developed a new device called the Matrix.  Let me first mention that Beltran is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world of medical electronics for pain relief.

I asked Mr. Beltran numerous questions about the technology behind the new device. He was more than happy and extremely qualified to answer my questions. Beltran described an innovative type of technology that was literally changing the game of pain treatment across the country. The Matrix was already being used in numerous prestigious clinics around the world.

I spoke with numerous very experienced doctors from across the country that were using the device.  Each one was very enthusiastic about the results.

In contrast to a routine TENS unit the Matrix creates electroanalgesia in much the same way as a chemical nerve block. There is also a difference in the frequency and modulated program algorithms.  For example, normal TENS units provide a variable frequency between 1-250 pulses per second.  

The Matrix device developed by NeuroMed produces an electronic signal that ranges between 8,000 and 10,000 cycles per second.  This difference allows the signal to penetrate deeper into the affected tissues and produce significantly greater pain relief.

The advanced circuitry in the Matrix allows the clinician to program various protocols that are capable of producing a nerve block that can actually produce analgesia. Multiple applications of the treatment have been able to completely eliminate chronic joint pain that has been present for years. Patients with arthritis and nerve pain have found profound relief.

Obviously, each patient is unique and results vary. The treatment is not right for every person in chronic pain. In our experience for the past year results have exceeded our initial expectations.

The effectiveness of this technology is remarkable enough to stimulate me to think about what is next.  What is around the corner in technological advances to address chronic pain? If the Matrix device in our office today can work so remarkably well for chronic joint and nerve pain, is it possible that the next generation can be effective for all pain?

Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com

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