ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — A new study finds that freezing nerves could help to alleviate pain in people who chronically suffer from it.
According to Nature World News, the process is called cryoneurolysis, and is performed by inserting a small probe – one the size of an IV needle – whose temperature is lowered to approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
The freezing probe reportedly stops nerve endings from sending pain signals to the brain by creating small ice crystals along the damaged nerves using pressurized gas.
Researchers at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York feel that the ground-breaking procedure could have “big implications for the millions of people who suffer from neuralgia.”
“[It’s a condition] which can be unbearable and is very difficult to treat,” Stony Brook’s medical director of radiology, Dr. William Moore, was quoted as saying by Nature World News. “Cryoneurolysis offers these patients an innovative treatment option that provides significant lasting pain relief and allows them to take a lower dose of pain medication – or even skip drugs altogether.”
Moore and his team reportedly tried the procedure on 20 patients during their study.
Beforehand, each participant was asked to complete a pain survey that rated their individual discomfort. As the study proceeded, researchers continued to ask patients to rate their pain levels using the same scale.
Half of the participants – who had previously rated their pain to be at an average of 8 points – allegedly experienced a drop to pain that brought ratings down to an average of 2.4 points just a week after treatments began. Over the course of two months, almost all of their pain had been eradicated.
The procedure isn’t perfect, however – other participants noted that their levels of pain increased by as much as four points, Nature World News learned.
Moore noted that more research would be needed into cryoneurolysis, but added that “the effect is equivalent to removing the insulation from a wire, decreasing the rate of conductivity of the nerve. Fewer pain signals means less pain, and the nerve remains intact.”
The study was recently presented at the 38th annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology.
Pain from nerve damage is a possible side effect of diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
“Diabetic nerve damage (also called diabetic neuropathy) is a problem for many people with diabetes,” the official CDC website notes. “Over time, high blood glucose levels damage the delicate coating of nerves. This damage can cause many problems, such as pain in your feet.”