Answers from industry experts
by Kristin Easterling
January 9, 2019

COMPASS HEALTH BRANDS

accureliefAccuRelief Products

Andrea Mangini, Product Marketing Manager, Pain Management
compasshealthbrands.com

What are the trends in pain management?
Mangini:
Consumers are becoming more aware of, and are often personally affected by, the opioid crisis, and with doctors prescribing pain medications less frequently, consumers are turning to alternative treatments for relief from pain.

What are the challenges in the pain management market?
Mangini:
The main challenge will always be properly educating the consumer on their options. Technologies and products evolve, they improve, and it’s our responsibility as manufacturers to clearly communicate features, benefits and indications for use so that the consumer can feel confident about what they are choosing as their pain management solution.

What makes your products an alternative to traditional pain therapies?
Mangini:
Compass Health makes a variety of pain management products that are all drug free. We have hot and cold products, kinesiology tapes and electrotherapy devices, allowing us to provide solutions for a wide variety of pain. These products offer the consumer peace of mind, allowing them to find relief without having to be dependent solely on pain medications.

How does electrotherapy help manage pain?
Mangini:
Electrotherapy is a technology that has been around longer than people realize. Our company itself has more than 50 years of clinical expertise [in electrotherapy]. There are also a variety of types of electrotherapy, but what you will find most commonly on the retail shelf—and which are the main focus of our AccuRelief line—are TENS and EMS.

TENS (transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation) uses gentle electric pulses that modify pain receptors, essentially blocking the pain signal from reaching the brain. This allows the user relief from the pain they are feeling while also triggering endorphins, which is believed to aid in reduced inflammation, increased immune function, overall positive feelings and reduction of pain.

EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) has a similar sensation, but rather than targeting the nerves, this treatment contracts or stimulates the muscles, which aids in enhanced blood circulation and muscle recovery. Both therapies treat pain, but from a consumer’s perspective, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what kind of treatment is needed.

How does pain management help prevent abuse of opioid medications?
Mangini:
Pain management products give people suffering from both acute and chronic pain options they previously didn’t have. TENS and EMS used to be administered only in a doctor’s office or by acquiring a prescription. Now, these products are available with the same clinical features but with a more user-friendly look and streamlined controls. With regular treatments, they can provide the relief the user needs to possibly keep moving and allow them to better manage their pain without the need for opioids.

PAIN CARE LABS

VibraCoolVibraCool

Amy Baxter, MD, FAAP, FACEP, Chief Medical Officer and CEO
vibracool.com

What are the trends in pain management?
Baxter:
Some of the biggest trends in pain management are recognizing that pain relief doesn’t mean pain elimination. Doctors are trying to reinforce that post-surgery or injury there will be some pain, but that homecare involves having multiple options to try before going for pharmaceuticals. The other big trend in pain relief is layering. Most studies of single treatments find about 30 percent pain reduction. Pain relief isn’t finding the one thing that works, it’s finding a mix that takes pain from 100 percent overwhelming to 50 to 70 percent bearable.

Finally, we’re moving away from rating pain to focusing on valued activities. Rather than rating pain on a one to 10 [scale] every day, for chronic pain the outcome may be “How often were you able to garden this month?”

What are the challenges in the pain management market?
Baxter:
Only a fraction of the pain market is nonpharmacologic. There are numerous inexpensive TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators) devices on the market. Other pain relievers use mechanical vibration instead of electricity to directly engage the nerve that blocks pain, but at much higher frequencies than traditional massagers.

For novel therapies such as vibration/thermal combinations, making space on shelves is a challenge. The other challenge is that the market is crowded with gimmicks that aren’t FDA cleared, and the FDA doesn’t have time to chase down every “magic” cure. Finally, consumer awareness is always expensive.

What makes your product an alternative to traditional pain therapies?
Baxter:
At Pain Care Labs, we’re equally proud of the pain relief we’ve given and the science behind it.

Compared to using a menthol-based cream or electric twitches, our devices use real cold and real motion to block pain, and are proven in over 28 studies. We’re also invested in the research supporting multiple modalities of pain relief.

Our new VibraCool Flex keeps the high-frequency vibration we’ve proven effective for pain, but adds a heat option to our usual intense ice packs. The other big difference is that we trust patients to know what feels good—we make our products available over-the-counter directly to patients, because pain relief you have to travel for doesn’t relieve the anxiety about pain.

What role does vibration play in pain relief and management?
Baxter:
Basically, your body grows in response to safe amounts of mechanical tension. Lie in bed, your muscles get weak, but get up and walk and your bones and muscles grow. Walking is a natural vibration inducer, at about 10-15 Hz. By using light vibration at high frequencies, you can stimulate healthy growth. When a muscle is overused, you get small injuries every time you use it, like a golfer’s elbow that keeps getting pulled.

Higher-frequency vibration separates the fibers that can stick together, so it reduces injury and pain. For more intense acute pain, using really high-frequency vibration and ice kick feedback loops into play. Our Buzzy device eliminated pain from needles for 84 percent of seniors in one study. High-frequency vibration and intense ice completely inhibited the relatively weak pain signal. For injuries, the ice over time also inhibits the development of the cytokines that cause pain, so there are immediate and long-term benefits.

How does pain management help prevent abuse of opioid medications?
Baxter:
Of people who become addicted to opioids, 80 percent start with pills prescribed for pain. Mind you, often there are extra pills left in a drawer that someone else finds. There is a movement in orthopedic surgeries to eliminate pain pills altogether, but without alternative pain management that’s going to be hard. One reason people turn to pills is also feeling helpless. Having a personal option for pain relief feels empowering.

How does managing pain help keep people safe at home and out of the hospital?
Baxter:
Most trips to physicians start with pain. When people feel more comfortable managing pain and realize that pain relief doesn’t have to mean pain elimination, they become less anxious. If we can give people the same relief they would get at a doctor without having to leave the place they’re most comfortable, we’ve succeeded.