- Chronic pelvic pain affects 6 per cent of men and up to 26 per cent of women
- The device fires ultrasound waves into the ‘saddle area’ to reduce chronic pain
- It is based on a treatment previously used to treat patients with kidney stones
Roger Dobson for the Daily Mail
A device that fires ultrasound waves into the ‘saddle area’ — buttocks and inner thighs — could be a new way to tackle chronic pelvic pain.
New research shows that just 15 minutes of ultrasound treatment can significantly reduce pain, possibly by lowering levels of chemicals involved in the transmission of pain signals.
Chronic pelvic pain affects 6 per cent of men and up to 26 per cent of women, though the underlying causes differ.
In men, it is often the result of chronic prostatitis, an inflamed prostate due to an infection.
A device that fires ultrasound waves into the ‘saddle area’ — buttocks and inner thighs — could be a new way to tackle chronic pelvic pain
In women, it is a complication associated with endometriosis, a common condition where tissue normally found in the womb occurs elsewhere in the body.
In both sexes, chronic pelvic pain can also have no obvious cause.
In addition to severe pain in the pelvis, genitals, lower back or buttocks, symptoms include frequent urination, loss of libido and fatigue. Treatment varies depending on the cause and symptoms.
As well as painkillers, men may be prescribed alpha-blockers — drugs that help relax the muscles in the prostate gland and the base of the bladder for easier urination.
The new approach is based on a technique called extracorporeal shockwave therapy, a form of ultrasound that has been widely used to treat kidney stones.
Shockwaves (essentially intense sound waves) are fired from a large generator to break the stones into smaller fragments, which can then exit through the urinary tract.
To treat pelvic pain, much lower intensity sound waves are fired from a hand-held device held over the perineum, the area of skin between the back passage and urethra.
How the therapy works to reduce pelvic pain is unclear. One suggestion is that sound waves lower levels of a compound called Substance P, which is involved in the transmission of chronic pain signals.
In extracorporeal shockwave therapy, shockwaves (essentially intense sound waves) are fired from a large generator to break kidney stones into smaller fragments
Another theory is that it increases blood supply to the area, to help flush out the chemicals causing inflammation.
To deliver the treatment, doctors apply a gel to the skin, as with an ultrasound. The sound waves are then administered for 15 minutes.
Research shows the approach can be effective in easing pelvic pain in men and women.
In one study presented at the European Society for Sexual Medicine in Nice this month, 39 men with pelvic pain were given three or four sessions of ultrasound treatment.
ULTRASOUND WAVES COULD HELP YOU HEAL QUICKER
Ultrasound waves may help speed up wound healing in patients with diabetes.
Ultrasound waves may help speed up wound healing in patients with diabetes
To test this, 30 patients at the Hadassah Medical Organisation in Israel will have their wounds cleaned and dressed the standard way, and half will also be given a session of ultrasound therapy — healing will be compared after a month.
Research suggests ultrasound can reduce bacteria, which interfere with wound healing, and increase blood flow and cells needed for repair.
Results showed that pain and urinary problems were reduced significantly and ‘it proved to be a simple and effective method of treatment without side-effects’, according to the researchers from the University of Rome.
A second recent study with 50 men showed similar results, with improvements of up to 42 per cent in symptoms after four sessions — and improvements were still seen a year later, according to the results in Annals of Medicine and Surgery.
A report in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research of a woman with chronic pelvic pain who had 11 sessions of shockwave therapy showed a fourfold drop in pain and she stopped needing painkillers.
Commenting on the treatment, Professor Raj Persad, a consultant urologist at the North Bristol NHS Trust, says: ‘Results so far are encouraging. We don’t know exactly how it works, but I think it may achieve its beneficial effects by improving pelvic blood supply, which takes away noxious agents and inflammatory cells which cause pain.
‘Low-intensity shockwave therapy has also been shown to stimulate existing blood vessels and promote the growth of new vessels.’
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