In my practice I treat people with chronic pain in a variety of ways. When possible we use mind-body approaches that typically avoid medication use. Some patients come in to the practice on strong pain medicine and I do my best to help these individuals lower or eliminate these meds, especially opioids. For other patients, we have to combine or integrate a number of different treatment modalities to give relief.
For at least seven years, a device that was developed in Austria has been used in Europe for treatment of chronic pain and decreased blood flow. It is known as a Stivax Device. The Stivax device is FDA approved in the US and over 300 physicians have used it on their patients nationally, although I was the first in California to obtain this device for my patients (There are now at least five physicians in California using this device regularly).
The Stivax treatment involves stimulation of the vagus nerve at the ear. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, from the brain stem to many internal organs including the heart and gut. Stimulating this nerve may help balance the parasympathetic nervous system with the often highly active sympathetic nervous system. The latter is known for the “fight/flight/freeze/fear” response. The device may help “reset” the nervous system to a better level. Vagus nerve stimulation at the ear has also been part of acupuncture treatment for many hundreds of years.
Here is a video that describes the Stivax device –
A typical course of treatment
The Stivax device is applied in the office to the external ear (percutaneous implantation it is called). It is also attached with special tape that holds two little prongs just beneath the skin and near branches of the vagus nerve. This electrode array is connected to the power unit which fits in a cradle that adheres to the upper chest area. The device is typically worn for a week and then the physician removes the electrode array and implants a new one in the opposite ear, moving the power pack to the opposite side of the chest. A full cycle of treatment is about two weeks, after which the device shuts down and is removed by the physician and disposed of.
Patients benefit from doing 1, 2, or 3 cycles, typically with a one to two week gap between cycles of treatment. The device is water resistant, can get wet, although we take precautions to avoid immersion in water where possible.
My practice results so far
So far, I have seen a variety of responses to Stivax treatment. Some individuals have had dramatic relief of pain, improved mood, and more energy and activity beginning within a few days of beginning treatment. Other individuals have had more modest relief of pain, more activity, or relief of one type of pain that they have, but perhaps not another. A few individuals have not had pain relief or have found wearing the device in the ear too uncomfortable or restrictive to their lifestyle.
For individuals with chronic, difficult to treat pain from back pain, RSD/CRPS, fibromyalgia, headaches, leg pain, circulatory related pain, trigeminal neuralgia, migraines, post-surgical pain, etc. there are limited options that are non-surgical and non-pharmacological. Stivax is an exciting new treatment option that helps to “reset” the nervous system and provide symptom relief in a significant percentage of patients who use it for 1, 2, or 3 cycles. Most patients are paying for the treatment directly as health insurance tends to lag behind cutting edge treatment approaches.
Here is a testimonial from a patient who has benefited from the device –
If you are interested in learning more about the device you can contact us at our Culver City, California office.