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Simultaneous Use of Opioid and Electromagnetic Treatments

Concurrent therapeutic electromagnetic applications complement opioid treatment and promote enhanced pain control.
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Opioid drugs are the backbone of serious pain treatment rendered by a physician. Before consulting a physician, however, persons in pain will usually attempt many other avenues. Pain patients now have great access to countless, over-the-counter remedies for common acute and chronic pain problems. Their source for self-treatment may not only be a pharmacy, but may be a catalogue, internet, or direct marketing company. Also, before a patient calls a physician, he or she will likely attempt non-prescription measures by consulting a chiropractor, acupuncturist, personal trainer, psychologist, podiatrist or other non-MD therapist. Due to the patient’s great access to over-the-counter pain measures for mild forms of pain, the patient who seeks physician care for chronic pain is likely to be a moderate to severe case. The physician will usually initiate chronic pain treatment with non-opioid prescription drugs which may include anti-inflammatory agents, anti-convulsants, muscle relaxants, antidepressants and triptans, among others. If these usual and standard, non-opioid drugs fail to satisfactorily control pain, opioids become the mainstay of treatment. Estimates now put the US national figure at about 10 million persons who use opioids on a regular basis.

Long ago, astute physicians learned to mix opioids and non-opioid drugs and therapeutic measures in pursuit of enhanced pain control. Most contemporary physicians, however, do not incorporate any electromagnetic measures in their opioid pain treatment regimen. This paper summarizes some historical and basic science relative to the development and therapeutic use of electromagnetic measures.1-3 There are old, as well as new, sophisticated electromagnetic treatments that complement and enhance opioid treatment.

What Are Electromagnetic Modalities?

Simply, they are any measure or technique that alters or mobilizes electrical currents or electromagnetic energy in the body.

Biology of the Pain Site

Basic biologic knowledge is critical to the understanding of the simultaneous use of opioid and electromagnetic measures. While it is clearly known that pain results from nerve fiber damage or dysfunction, it is not fully appreciated that a damaged or dysfunctional nerve fiber cannot transmit its normal current of electricity. Consequently, the normal flow of electricity is interrupted and electric charges are sequestered around the damaged site. Furthermore, a nerve fiber is never damaged in isolation. Its blood supply and lymphatic drainage is also damaged, so blood and lymph products are also sequestered in the pain site (see Figure 1). Fundamentally, a pain site is a sequestration of blood, lymph, and electricity—essentially, a wound.

Figure 1. The inflammatory pain site contains sequestered heme and lymph products, electric charges, and newly-formed opioid receptors.

Since a pain site contains blood, lymph, and electric charges, heat and inflammation results. Depending on its depth below the skin’s surface, heat may, or may not, be palpable. Critical to understanding the pain site is that solid research has demonstrated that opioid receptors are produced when and where inflammatory tissue develops.4-6 These receptors are obviously produced to attract natural, endogenous endorphins from the circulating blood. The role of endorphins attaching to opioid receptors in inflammatory tissues is not totally understood.6 They may not only help relieve pain but may also have some healing function.4,5 Opioid receptors in inflammatory tissue also help explain the value of exogenously administered opioids. Not only do opioids work in the central nervous system, they also act in the periphery.6 The combination of opioids plus electromagnetic measures minimizes the effects of sequestered electricity. Opioids and electromagnetic measures, therefore, decrease inflammation, enhance wound healing, and provide a powerful combination in pain treatment.

Key Historical Developments

The long history of the use of opium for pain relief is legend. Opium has been found in Egyptian mummies showing that the great Egyptian society cared enough for their residents to treat their pain. Ancient Greeks and Romans had patients with painful gout or headaches touch electric fish in the hope that an electric jolt would cure them.1,2 The well-known, electrical conductor copper was also used thousands of years ago to treat pain. In some countries, such as Iraq, it was found on hillsides and inhabitants found that it relieved pain when rubbed on painful areas. Although much refined today, the use of opioids and electromagnetic measures to treat pain is a very old concept.

Besides copper and electric fish, there are a number of other electromagnetic measures that have been practiced over the centuries. It’s just that no one recognized their basic attribute or scientific mechanism—that is, to extract or mobilize electrical charges in the body. Included here are some age-old remedies such as ice, magnets, magnesium, acupuncture, and mineral baths. Few physicians are even aware that Epsom Salts, your grandmother’s favorite, is actually magnesium sulfate. These old time remedies work by extracting sequestered electric charges or mobilizing electricity in pain sites.

There are some famous, historical inventions and discoveries that bear directly on understanding the pain site and the combined use of opioids and electromagnetic measures.1-3 In 1791, Luigi Galvani, of galvanometer fame, published his discovery of bioelectricity. He demonstrated that electricity was the medium by which nerve cells passed signals to muscles and, when injured, electrical activity increased in the damaged area. In 1821, Orsted discovered that a magnetic field existed around all sides of a wire carrying an electric current and established a direct relationship between electricity and magnetism (see Figure 2). Faraday and Ampere later showed that this magnetic field acted as a source of an electric field and that these fields, when manipulated, produced the properties of a wave. In 1864, Maxwell developed equations showing an interrelationship between an electric current, electric charge, electric field, and magnetic field. Pain treatment is now a major benefactor of those early discoveries in that treatment utilizes electric current as well as electromagnetic waves—e.g., electric power, radio, ultrasound, micro, infrared, ultraviolet, laser, x-ray, and gamma rays (see Figure 3).

In 1831, Faraday demonstrated that a magnet brought perpendicular to an electric current exerted a tangential force causing an electric current to flow by producing a potential difference between two points. The ability of a magnet to mobilize an electric current helps explain the spreading use of magnets in pain therapy.

Last updated on: November 13, 2012
First published on: October 1, 2009