NEW BRUNSWICK – Chronic pain can be debilitating. It interferes with everyday activities, even non-taxing undertakings such as sleep. For sufferers of thalamic pain syndrome, an often disabling pain on one side of the body resulting from damage to a part of the brain called the thalamus, relief through use of pharmaceuticals or invasive procedures can be short-lived. Physicians in New Jersey are hoping to offer an alternative to patients with thalamic pain syndrome in a new study that will determine if acupuncture may be a helpful treatment. They are now recruiting patients to participate in the study.
“Despite its recognition more than 100 years ago, there is no effective treatment for thalamic pain syndrome,” said Karen W. Lin, MD, MS, associate professor of family medicine and community health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and principal investigator of the study. “Through acupuncture, this study may help us to determine if the brain can be retrained to focus on an external stimulation, thereby ignoring the chronic pain caused by thalamic pain syndrome.”
A condition that can develop following a stroke in the thalamus which controls the body’s sensory information, thalamic pain syndrome may be characterized by widespread pain, tingling or hypersensitivity to touch that can’t be attributed to other causes. Pain can be useful to the body, indicating the need to escape danger. However, despite the difficulty of living with chronic pain, thalamic pain syndrome, which generally appears weeks to months after a stroke, poses no imminent danger. During the study, the researchers will attempt to retrain the thalamus to focus on the acupuncture needles as the true source of stimulation, thereby limiting the brain’s reaction to the pain of thalamic pain syndrome.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with thalamic pain syndrome and who wish to be study participants may contact Dr. Lin at 732-235-7667 or Eric Altschuler, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and co-investigator of the study, at 973-972-5439.
Potential study participants will be asked for a medical history and receive a physical exam. The study investigators will review their CT scans and MRIs to confirm the diagnosis of thalamic pain syndrome. Qualifying participants will receive acupuncture twice a week for four weeks administered by Dr. Lin. There is no cost to study participants and participants will not be paid for their participation.
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School became part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey on July 1, 2013.
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