Design and Analysis of a Whole-Body Noncontact Electromagnetic Subthreshold Stimulation Device with Field Modulation Targeting Nonspecific Neuropathic Pain

In: Brain and Human Body Modeling: Computational Human Modeling at EMBC 2018 [Internet]. Cham (CH): Springer; 2019. Chapter 5.


Chronic pain represents a major health problem. Approximately 100 million US adults suffer from common chronic pain conditions, more than the number affected by heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. The economic cost of chronic pain in adults is $560–630 billion annually. Chronic low back pain accounts for 22% of all cases of chronic pain and for 35% of most persistent pain sites. The most common diffuse low back neuropathic pain is classified as nonspecific low back pain.

Evidence suggests that electrical stimulation may modify both cause and perception of chronic pain. The objective of this study is to describe the design of a novel, noncontact, large-scale electrostimulation device, which utilizes the concept of a spacious, high-quality electromagnetic resonator operating in the kHz range and at mild subthreshold stimulation levels. Our new resonant neurostimulation approach could probably combine the best of transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation, or TENS, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. In the first case, it is a continuous and flexible operation, while in the second case, it is painless, noncontact, and provides deep field penetration.

This study is driven by the limitations of TENS. We introduce a conceptually different electromagnetic stimulation device. Instead of local high-intensity and suprathreshold TENS, we suggest to stimulate the PNS (peripheral nervous system) and muscular system of the entire lower body in a noncontact, patient-friendly way. At the same time, we suggest to use low or subthreshold power levels. In other words, we propose mild yet more broad electromagnetic treatment potentially beneficial for nonspecific chronic pain. The proposed device would primarily affect peripheral nerves, spinal cord, muscles, joints, and bone. Simultaneously, it could influence the somatosensory cortex via many affected pathways, in line with the modern concept of central control of pain.

Publication types

  • Review