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The Treatment of Fibromyalgia with Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation
Alan S. Lichtbroun, Mei-Ming C. Raicer, Ray B. Smith
 
ABSTRACT:  In cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), microcurrent levels of electrical stimulation are passed across the head via electrodes clipped to the ear lobes. After successful clinical use of CES with fibromyalgia patients in our clinic, it was decided to test these results with a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which 60 randomly assigned patients were given 3 weeks of 1-hour-daily CES treatments, sham CES treatments, or were held as wait in-line controls for any placebo effect in the sham-treated patients. Treated patients showed a 28% improvement in tender point scores, and a 27% improvement in self-rated scores of general pain level. The number of subjects rating their quality of sleep as poor dropped from 60% at the beginning of the study to 5%. In addition, there were significant gains in the self-rated feelings of well-being and quality of life, plus gains in six stress-related psychological test measures. No placebo effect was found among the sham-treated controls. A theoretical role of CES in affecting the brain's pain message mechanisms and/or neurohormonal control systems is discussed. It is concluded that CES is as effective as the drug therapies in several trials, with no negative side effects, and deserves further consideration as an additional agent for the treatment of fibromyalgia. (J Clin Rheumatol 2001;7:72-78)

Key words: Fibromyalgia, CES, Electrotherapy, Microcurrent
 

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-recognized, drug-free treatment for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. CES typically involves the passage of microcurrent levels of biphasic electrical stimulation across the head for from 20 minutes to an hour daily for a few days to a few weeks, depending on the disorder being treated. The stimulation levels applied in double-blind re-search studies are always below sensation level, and are also often at this level during the normal clinical use of CES.
Since CES arrived in the United States in the late 1960s, over 125 human and animal studies have been completed (1).

Most of the animal studies were performed to elicit mechanisms of action, patterns of electrical current transfer through the brain, and related physiologic concomitants to the stimulation. The studies by Pozos et al. in dogs at the University of Tennessee Medical Center yielded strong inferential evidence that CES worked to bring neurotransmitters in the brain back into homeostatic balance, once he had mechanically disrupted that balance (2).
Whereas many earlier clinicians doubted that an electric current of such small intensity actually entered the brain, rather than just spreading around the scalp tissue Early CES research on anxiety and depression often used inpatient populations of addicts who were experiencing the drug abstinence syndrome.
 It was in these studies that CES was found invaluable in inducing medication-free reductions in anxiety and depression while simultaneously improving sleep (4, 5). It was also during these studies that the benefits of CES in improving cognitive dysfunction were found (6-8). For example, it was discovered that the 24 months of total sobriety that were normally required to bring an alcoholic patient's cognitive function back to normal could be accomplished with 3 weeks of 45- 60-minute-daily CES treatments. Cognitive recovery findings were later
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, East Brunswick, NJ (ASL); Real World Health, Wall, NJ (M-MCR); Electromedical Products International, Mineral Wells, TX (RBS).
Address correspondence to: Mei-Ming C. Raicer, MS, Research Clinician, Real World Health, 1414 Francis Drive, Wall, NJ 07719. Fax: 732-280-5991. Copyright 2001 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

 

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Journal of Clinical Rheumatology • Volume 7, Number 2 • April 2001

 

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