Recently, Alan S. Lichtbroun, MD, says he learned about the electrotherapy technique while searching for better treatments for his many fibromyalgia patients.
"This technique is gaining wide acceptance at chronic pain treatment centers," says Lichtbroun, assistant professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in East Brunswick, N.J. "At first I looked at this device very skeptically -- and even now I am beginning to see some patients who had a marked response at the beginning are gradually beginning to deteriorate -- so again I wondered if the machine had lost its power. But what I've found is that patients eventually lose their incentive to use the machine, and less frequent use appears to mean a return of symptoms."
The machine Lichtbroun refers to is the Alpha-Stim CES device made by Electromedical Products International Inc., of Mineral Wells, Texas. Patients using the device clip electrodes to their earlobes, which transmit low levels of electricity back and forth, through the head.
It is believed that that a low-dose electrical current applied to the brain will affect the parasympathetic nervous system. One theory is that the electricity passing between the ears hits the vagus nerve, a branch of which runs near the ear. The vagus nerve is the main conduit of signals in the parasympathetic nervous system from the brain to the body. Another theory is that the electric current runs through the areas of the brain that control the autopilot nervous system that is able to shift the brain signals more towards a parasympathetic mode. Lastly, another thought is the electrical current acts as a rhythmic pacemaker throughout the brain, changing brainwave patterns to a slower, more relaxed rhythm.