February 24th, 2014 by Amanda Siebe, Columnist
Living with pain every day is kind of like living next to an airport. After a while you don’t hear the jets flying overhead anymore. They’re still there, in the middle of the night and the middle of the day, unending and ceaseless, but you don’t notice every time one flies over.
Chronic pain is much the same. After you’ve had it long enough, your body accepts that sensation as normal. You no longer expect pleasant sensations from touch. You don’t expect to be able to wear normal clothes or take a shower. You don’t expect to be able to exercise muscles in that part of your body without excruciating pain.
Occasionally, however, something happens that makes you reconsider everything that you’ve come to expect. Something happens that gives you a new normal.
I started Calmare therapy last week at Pain Relief of Oregon in West Linn, OR.
Calmare uses electricity to block pain signals without the use of drugs. Originally developed for people suffering from chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy, Calmare has also been found to be and effective at treating other types of neuropathic pain, including Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which I’ve suffered from over the last two years.
Calmare won’t treat mechanical pain, however. Mechanical pain in my case being the collapsed arch in my foot and the sprained ankle that led to my CRPS in the first place.
Having the pain from my CRPS gone is like listening to the sounds of the forest, after being in an office building next to jackhammers and construction all day. The volume is turned down and suddenly you’re receiving far less sensory input. You are able to notice much more subtle nuanced things that you never had the capacity, energy or space to notice before.
I can feel sore muscles in my foot again. I can feel them because my feet hurt so much and were so hypersensitive to touch and pressure that I wasn’t able to walk normally on them for nearly two years. My leg and foot muscles atrophied so much I had to retrain myself to walk with proper form.
’ve only been walking since I attended the Rehabilitation Institute of Washington’s CRPS program in Seattle in November of last year, which got me out of a wheelchair and back on my feet. That was certainly a change for the better, but my quality of life was still nowhere near what I wanted it to be. A 4-5 on the 10 pain scale had become my “tolerable normal” and what I was beginning to anticipate for the rest of my life.
image (2)The thing about Calmare that boggles my mind is that after trying all manner of painful procedures and medicines, and waiting weeks or months to see a result — if you have the type of pain that Calmare therapy treats, you’ll know if it will be successful for you within a few minutes.
My first day of therapy, I walked in at a 6/10, and left an hour later, eerily close to pain-free. I started feeling a change in 30 minutes.
The pain in my legs started to creep back in after a few hours, but I’m told that is typical after one treatment.
Patients typically go for 10 consecutive days of Calmare treatment, though each case is different. By the end of that first round of treatment, the objective is that patients be pain-free for 30-90 days. At that point a booster treatment of one or two sessions will keep you going for another 30-90 days free of pain. It’s repeatable, not something your body is going to develop a resistance to the same way it might with drugs.
The treatment itself is nothing more than being hooked by a few electrodes up to a machine. Electrodes placed, I might add, well outside of any area affected by pain.
I like to think that Calmare works for pain much the same way that noise-canceling headphones do for ambient noise. The Calmare machine interrupts the chronic pain signals your brain is used to receiving and replaces those distorted nerve signals with a normal, pain-free sensation.