Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (t-VNS) may help lower mechanical pain perception and increase the pressure pain threshold.
Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (t-VNS) may help lower mechanical pain perception and increase the pressure pain threshold, according to a study by researchers at the University of Regensburg.
The randomized, controlled study was spearheaded by Cerbomed coorporated, a medical device company, and researchers from the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University of Regensburg. The study focused on somatosensory pain processing and was led by Professor Dr. Peter Eichhammer and Dr. Volker Busch, who aimed to judge the pain-relieving effect of t-VNS.
In the context of the study, 48 healthy subjects underwent quantitative sensory testing (QST) with and without t-VNS activated on different days. A comprehensive comparative analysis was made of their perception of pain and pain sensitivity.
With t-VNS, there was a statistically significant and clinically relevant lowering of the mechanical pain perception and a rise in the pressure pain threshold. "Until now, the analgesic effect of vagus nerve stimulation has only been proven in animal experiments, and only occasionally observed in people with invasive vagus nerve stimulation," Busch said, in a press release. "Now, however, for the first time, this effect could be proven with t-VNS in a randomized, controlled study in humans."
Chronic pain affects about 20 to 25% of people today. Profesor Jens Ellrich, chief medical officer at cerbomed, explains that the great potential of an alternative treatment stems mainly from the current, often inadequate approach of drug-based therapies which have many undesirable side effects: "The results and findings from this preclinical study make planning further clinical studies into the therapy of chronic pain with t-VNS possible."
The results will be presented at the Joint Neuromodulation meeting of the Benelux Neuromodulation Society, taking place from Jan. 27 to 29, 2011 in Groningen, the Netherlands.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation directs mild electric pulses to the nerves in or around the treated area.
The Vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and contains both afferent and efferent fibers. It has been shown to modulate mood and seizure control.
Cerbomed manufactures NEMOS, a t-VNS “intended for people suffering from various difficult to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases,” according to the website. The “lead indication” for the product is drug-resistant epilepsy.
It “consists of a small stimulation unit, and an electrode which the patient wears over his ear like a headphone.” The product “sends electrical impulses through the electrode, which stimulates a branch of the Nervus Vagus transcutaneously (non-invasively). The therapy runs for several hours a day, under the patient's autonomous control.”
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