The human body at rest produces enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb, and we constantly have electrical pulses flowing through our bodies, without which we’d be limp and lifeless. In fact, our cells are actually specialized to carry electrical currents in order for our nervous system to send signals and messages to and from the body and brain.
This has gotten some researchers thinking… the fact that our bodies are constantly producing energy has sparked (pun intended) an emerging trend in healthcare technology calledelectroceuticals. More and more studies and research are looking at how devices that deliver a targeted electric impulse can help treat chronic pain and disease, while increasing overall wellbeing. Sounds pretty incredible, right?
If you know someone with a pacemaker or cochlear implant (more on this below), then you are already familiar with these fairly common forms of electroceuticals. These types of devices, which are also known as bioelectronics and neuromodulators, can be either external (worn outside the body) or internal (implanted within the body). The majority of electroceutical devices are designed to stimulate the vagus nerve — the longest cranial nerve in the human body, which is responsible for keeping your heart beating and your lungs breathing. This spectacular nerve also has been shown to have a direct link to ourgut health and the body’s inflammatory response.
Now that multiple studies have been conducted to demonstrate the benefits of electroceutical therapy, it’s no wonder that these incredible devices are now being considered as potential treatments for everything from Parkinson’s and epilepsy toheadaches, chronicback pain, and more. Let’s take a closer look at how electroceuticals are helping people who suffer from some of these common conditions, as well as a few popular types of electroceutical devices on the market today.
Sinus Pain Treated with Bioelectronics
It may seem surprising, but chronic sinus pain is a condition that may be treated with electricity. Tivic Health, out of Silicon Valley, has created a handheld device that can treat sinus pain caused by hayfever and allergies. Nearly 8% of Americans suffer from hayfever, so this device will probably be popular.
So how does it work? The device, called ClearUp, works by gliding up and down the outside of the nasal passages, while delivering low-current electric waveforms that stimulate the nerves and relieve sinus pain. No more yucky sprays and addictive medications.
Cochlear Implants to Restore Hearing
Unlike hearing aids that amplify sound, a cochlear implant is an electroceutical implant that bypasses damaged portions of the ear and delivers sound signals to the hearing (auditory) nerve. It can be a wonderful option for those that have suffered inner-ear damage and severe hearing loss. Cochlear implants use a sound processor that fits behind the ear. That processor captures sounds and transmits them to a receiver implanted under the skin behind the ear. The receiver then sends those signals to electrodes implanted in the inner ear. Finally, those signals stimulate the hearing nerve, and the signals are directed to the brain which interprets the sound. Although it’s not like normal hearing, over time, people with these types of implants are able to experience considerable gains in their understanding of speech.
Electroceutical Treatment for ADHD
Approximately 11% of children and 4.5% of adults have been diagnosed withADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). A majority of the time, the condition is treated with medication; however, a company called NeuroSigna has come up with an electroceutical alternative that could potentially help millions of kids and adults all over the world. The company’s Monarch eTNS System is a noninvasive treatment option that stimulates the trigeminal nerve — a large nerve that is responsible for motor functions like biting or chewing as well as facial sensations. The electrical current also projects into areas of the brain involved with ADHD, epilepsy,depression, and other conditions.
Electroceuticals for treating headaches
Bioelectronics is quickly becoming popular as a treatment for headaches. One company called electroCore has created a device to specifically treat cluster headaches — a series of short and intense, painful headaches that occur daily and last few weeks or months at a time. Nearly 325,000 Americans suffer from these episodes, which can severely limit your ability to function. Their electroceutical contribution, called gammaCore uses a non-invasive device that stimulates the major vagus nerve by delivering a mild electrical pulse to the neck. In trials, 40% of patients experienced a 50% reduction in weekly cluster attacks.
Other Types of Electroceutical Devices
You may have heard of, or even used, an electroceutical device called a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit. It’s a battery-operated device that some people use to treat pain conditions such as labor pain, period pain,joint pain,back and neck pain, spinal cord injuries, and much more.
TENS units work by delivering small electrical impulses to electrodes that are attached to a person’s skin by an adhesive pad. These electrical impulses then flood the nervous system, which inhibits its ability to transmit brain signals to the brain and spinal cord. They also naturally stimulate the body to produce natural pain relievers calledendorphins.
BEMER is an acronym for Bio Electro-Magnetic Energy Regulation and it is an electroceutical medical device that aids in the proper functioning of the body’s circulatory vessels. Given thatheart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., a healthy circulatory system is crucial for along and healthy life. A BEMER therapy session uses a low-frequency pulsing electric field that delivers life-sustaining electromagnetic energy into the body. The device activates the body’s power to self-heal by promoting micro-circulation and helps your cells produce more energy. Since BEMER therapy can be beneficial to nearly everyone, it has become one of the most researched treatments for a variety of common illnesses and conditions.
EMS (electrical muscle stimulator) devices have dated all the way back to the late 1700s as an approach to muscle conditioning. More and more companies are using EMS devices to give the muscles in the body a quick “workout” equivalent to hours in the gym – in just a few minutes. E-Fit, used by Lightning Fit, is a very popular EMS device that consists of a special suit with 10 electrode pairs and a voltage and frequency control system. It delivers electrical impulses to specific muscle groups for 20-minute sessions at a time. Studies have shown that the use of an EMS device is a very effective way to condition muscles.
The Future Electroceuticals
The potential health benefits of electroceutical therapy continue to be explored, are showing great potential as safe, mostly easy-to-use tools for better health. Look for more attention being paid to electroceuticals in the health world in 2020.