A new £20 patch that fires pulses of energy at 1,000 times a second is being touted as a drug and side-effect-free way to banish chronic pain! Worn next to the skin, the ActiPatch uses electromagnetic pulse therapy to disrupt pain signals and help ease long-term pain in the knees, back and shoulders. The battery-powered device, which weighs just 8 grammes, can be worn 24 hours a day and is suitable for diabetics, people with arthritis and the elderly. Trials involving 254 people show that nine out of ten patients who used it saw a 60 percent reduction in pain. ActiPatch manufacturer BioElectronic director of clinical research Dr Ian Rawe says, “Musculoskeletal pain is widespread in the UK, greatly impacting people’s quality of life and causing significant costs. Our study showed that 68 percent of the patients had been experiencing adverse side effects from medication. The ActiPatch is a type of pain relief that uses changes in nerve activity, which has no side effects over time.” About two billion people worldwide suffer from musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and back pain and the NHS says more than eight million Britons are affected by osteoarthritis. Existing treatments to tackle chronic pain include over-the-counter painkillers and physiotherapy, nerve blocks and surgery, including joint replacements. The ActiPatch delivers a safe level of pulses that do not give off heat or vibration, and it can be used alongside medication and overnight. One theory is that the patch’s electromagnetic pulses may help to reset the central nervous system to ‘turn down’ pain signals. When the brain detects the electromagnetic pulses, it tries to block this ‘noise’, but this also turns down the volume of other messages travelling along the nerves, including pain. Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust consultant neurologist Dr Nicholas Silver said, “Electromagnetic devices could be an alternative to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers. Many painkillers are associated with complications including an increased risk of bleeding, kidney damage or even heart disease and stroke. They may also turn on brain centres and have the opposite to intended effect, causing amplification of pain. It is extremely exciting to see the development of ‘electroceutical’ treatments that treat the problem directly and safely without causing such side effects.” ActiPatch’s energy comes from a battery and generator, together smaller than a 5p coin, connected to a wire loop that surrounds the area that will receive the pulses. The patch is placed over the painful joint, or on the back, and held in place with plasters or over clothing or a bandage. A green light glows when the device is switched on and 24-hour stimulation of the painful area is provided for about a month. A six-month study of 254 men and women with different types of chronic pain suggest that it can be highly effective and lead to improved quality life and less dependence on strong painkillers. More than 90 percent had continued relief averaging a 61 percent reduction in pain, and nine out of ten had improved sleep. Some 89 percent were more physically active, 86 percent reduced their medication use, including prescription opioids and 65 percent said they spent less money on over-the-counter painkillers. ActiPatch is available from pharmacies, priced £19.99.