Brain scrambler therapy promises pain relief without opioids

Russell Maize receives scrambler therapy at the Radiant Pain Centre in West Linn. ( Stuart Tomlinson/KATU)

The day Russell Maize fell from a ladder about ten years ago doctors told him he had a simple sprain and a touch of arthritis in his left foot.

But after several days when the pain didn’t subside, he went to another doctor who x-rayed the foot and found that Maize has shattered the talus bone in his foot into 23 pieces.

He was whisked into a surgery to screw and bolt the bones back together. It was the beginning of a series of surgeries that did nothing to stop the pain. Neither did spinal cord stimulators, physical therapy or large doses of opioids.

“I always knew that amputation was an option,’’ Maize said. The pain was so bad he contemplated suicide. He was immobile and miserable.

The leg was amputated but now he had phantom pain and still needed to take pain pills.

After dozens of on-line searches and meetings with people who had undergone so-called “scrambler” therapy, Maize found Dr. David Farley at the Radiant Pain Centres in West Linn.

The treatment, Farley said, uses “electro stimulation to transform the way the brain receives – and interprets, chronic pain information.”

Farley says the therapy uses artificial nerve impulses to send the brain a no-pain message. The results have been almost too good to be true: About 90 percent of the patients report their pain has dropped to a 1 or 0 on a scale of 1 to 10.

A patient in his 80s who had such severe pain and sensitivity from a bout of shingles that he could not put on a shirt for 3 years, received the treatment. Farley said the man didn’t leave his home for those 3 years until having the treatment.

“He’s back fishing and hunting and even dating,” Farley said.

The treatment also changed Maize’s life.

“I am now able to go on walks with my grandson,’’ a teary-eyed Maize said. “I always knew I could get beyond this.”

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