Vibration helps reduce pain in chronic sufferers
By Czerne M. Reid
Rubbing or massaging is often an instinctive response to pain. Now researchers have found that another kind of touch, vibration, can also help reduce certain types of pain by more than 40 percent. The researchers are encouraged by the prospect that vibration therapies could bring pill-free pain relief to chronic sufferers.
“The vibration truly represents an analgesic effect,” said Roland Staud, M.D., a professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology in the UF College of Medicine. “This is exciting because it is something that provides pain relief that is not associated with great cost.”
The findings appear in the European Journal of Pain.
Naturally occurring mechanisms help to blunt the severity of pain signals sent to the brain, but effectiveness of those systems varies from person to person, and in some people they fail altogether. Previous studies have shown that individuals with pain disorders of unknown cause — including fibromyalgia, migraine and irritable bowel syndrome — are less efficient at inhibiting pain.
The researchers applied pain-inducing heat to the forearms of participants, some of whom had fibromyalgia, some of whom had head and neck pain and some who were pain-free. Then, they used a special motor to deliver a high-frequency vibration to the skin and deep tissues of the arm to see whether that would relieve the pain caused by the heat. It did.
All three groups of patients experienced a 40 percent reduction in pain when the vibration was applied.
“This is the first time a nonpainful stimulus has been found to have such an effect in fibromyalgia patients,” Staud said.