Chronic Pain: New Solutions to Age Old Problems

Spring 2004 CSANews Issue 50  |  Posted date : May 05, 2007.Back to list

Botox injections. Muscle relaxants. Physiotherapy. Chiropractics. From pain-killers and narcotics to acupuncture and deep-muscle Rolfing massage, Cathy tried nearly every kind of therapy known to mankind after an exercise mishap left her with crippling neck, back and jaw pain.

"Conventional medicine could not help me with the excruciating pain and severe muscle spasms," she recalls. A registered nurse, Cathy also worried about the effects of all the drugs she was taking. "Prescription medications made me feel like a zombie."

There's no question that any medication ­ even Aspirin ­ has the potential for negative side-effects, particularly for people who take multiple medications. Today, adverse drug reactions and drug interactions are directly responsible for thousands of deaths annually and for more than 20 per cent of all hospitalizations for adults over the age of 65 (Statistics Canada, 1998).

Cathy was convinced that there had to be a better way to cope with her pain, and doggedly continued her quest for relief. Finally, a physician colleague recommended a promising new method of pain control called the ETPS system.

The Next Generation of Pain Therapy
Chronic pain is a disease that causes enormous suffering, with millions of people suffering and many others living an unbearable existence. ETPS is the first therapy developed specifically for the home management of pain. Its success is owed to the synthesizing of eastern medical wisdom with western medical science. By combining these different therapeutic approaches with electro-medicine technology, ETPS has been clinically reported to provide pain relief with what an increasing number of therapists consider a remarkable success.

At first glance, the ETPS system might sound similar to a TENS (Transcutaneous Electronic Neural Stimulation) unit, which applies electrical stimulation to nerve points aimed at 'shorting out' pain signals (which are, after all, electrical impulses). However, while traditional TENS units apply high doses of A/C current via pads, the ETPS system applies very low doses of concentrated D/C current to special combinations of acupuncture and trigger points.

According to Bruce Hocking, the acupuncturist and chronic pain instructor who founded ETPS, the difference is astounding. "The body runs on direct current (D/C), so our approach is much more effective than traditional TENS. D/C relaxes the muscles tone, which in turn calms the nervous system and relieves patients' pain". Hocking says that the therapy works on most, but not all pains, and claims an astounding overall success rate of 70-80 per cent. Sounds impressive, but is this new therapy too good to be true?

Recent research performed at the Florida Hospital for Rehabilitation & Sports Medicines, the largest in the USA, suggests that he may be right. The study compared ETPS combined with physical therapy, versus traditional physical therapy (TENS, ultrasound, heat, ice, stretching, exercise), with impressive results. "ETPS doubled our outcomes in half the time, with our patient pain levels dropping from a 7-8/10 to a 1-2/10 in just a few treatments," says Dr. Mitch Freed, regional medical director of Florida Hospital.

Today, adverse drug reactions and drug interactions are directly responsible for thousands of deaths annually and for more than 20 per cent of all hospitalizations for adults over the age of 65.
(Statistics Canada, 1998)

Hocking also claims that by detecting treatment points, ETPS therapy can find otherwise invisible tissue changes that may underlie certain kinds of pain. Thus, therapists and patients alike can easily be trained in the use of ETPS therapy, providing an opportunity for chronic pain sufferers to provide themselves with relief at home.

According to Dr. Gordon Ko, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and professor at the University of Toronto, ETPS is a useful tool for attacking the nerve-related component of pain. Dr. Ko believes that the approach helps balance the activity of the part of our nervous system which controls such involuntary responses as muscle spasms, body temperature regulation, and blood vessel dilation. "One of the ways we find ETPS useful is to get these nerves to regulate properly," he explains.

Why is that important? Sometimes, chronic pain seems to 'rewire' the nervous system, jamming the pain 'alarm' into the 'on' position long after physical damage has healed. Helping to redress an imbalance between the sympathetic nervous system (the one that's activated during a 'fight or flight' adrenaline rush) and the parasympathetic nervous system (the one that's responsible for reducing our blood pressure and slows our heart rate when we're relaxed), may break the pain cycle. This may explain why drugs are often ineffective in controlling chronic pain ­ they don't address this problem.

"You're trying to achieve a balance of a person's neurological system ­ and that's an area that's often overlooked in chronic pain management," Ko asserts.

Advantages over Traditional Acupuncture
Like traditional acupuncture, ETPS probably helps to notch down pain by promoting the release of pain-killing chemicals called endorphins. However, the no-needle method does have several advantages, points out Dr. George Traitses, a chiropractor at Infinite Health in Scarborough, Ont. "It's non-invasive ­ there's no skin puncture," he notes. "We find that a lot of patients are afraid of acupuncture, either because of the needles themselves, or because they're afraid of infection."

"One of the advantages ­ and it's a huge advantage ­ is the fact that the ETPS unit puts control in the hands of the patient, and not a therapist", says Lyle Hamilton, a physiotherapist in Napanee, Ont. "It helps people become much more independent with pain management, which is more proactive than having to come into a clinic." Since chronic pain patients often experience emotional distress (which can exacerbate pain) because pain leaves them feeling powerless, an approach that puts the patient in charge can help prevent the situation from spiraling downward. And, unlike drugs, "ETPS doesn't have harmful side-effects," Hamilton adds.

All of these qualities must have appealed to Cathy, who purchased one of the units and recently attended training sessions to learn to help others. "This allowed me to discontinue all other medications and modes of treatment, and control my chronic pain with the machine alone," she says. "I have my life back."

ETPS home units are often covered by extended health insurance plans and Veterans Affairs Canada. For more information on ETPS therapy, please call 1-800-567-7246.