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Sense of touch, pain improved by high frequency stimulation

Some patients in the study had pain levels drop by more than 30 percent.

By
Stephen Feller
While electrical stimulation helped some patients immensely, researchers said future research will test whether a longer treatment period or stronger electric impulses can help more patients. Photo by Image Point Fr/Shutterstock
While electrical stimulation helped some patients immensely, researchers said future research will test whether a longer treatment period or stronger electric impulses can help more patients. Photo by Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

BOCHUM, Germany, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Researchers in Germany found high frequency repetitive stimulation helped improve tactile ability and overall pain in patients whose senses have changed because of disease-related alterations in their brains, such as after a stroke.

The idea, researchers said, is similar to the goals of physical therapy for people who have debilitating injuries and need to retrain their brains and bodies to move and function.

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In a new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, researchers at the Ruhr-University Bochum worked with 20 patients diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrom, or CRPS, which often follows fractures or other injuries to the extremities.

The participants were treated over five days with a daily, 45-minute stimulation session to the hand affected by CRPS. High frequency electrical impulses were applied to the fingertips using a custom hand pad after determining the difference between what patients could feel and what caused pain. Treatment levels for each were determined to be somewhere between these two points.

Of the patients, 16 improved tactile senses in the affected hand, however pain remained unchanged on average. In addition to tactile improvement, four patients also had pain decrease by more than 30 percent.

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"Further studies must now be conducted, to find out whether a more intensive and longer period of treatment can not only improve tactile acuity, but also considerably lower pain levels in defined CRPS subgroups," said Dr. Hubert Dinse, a researcher at Ruhr-University Bochum, in a press release.

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