Fresh Approach To Pain Relief

A new procedure uses electrodes to stimulate deep nerves in order to treat chronic pain.
For golf pro Bob Kameronitz, a nagging back ache was par for the course.

"All of a sudden one day I was out here on the golf course and then I had some pain down my leg," Kameronitz said.

Like 20 million Americans, he has pain caused by osteoarthritis - a wearing away of the tissue around joints, usually treated with surgery or medications, reports CBS News correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

"I don't like to take drugs, drugs are not a part of my life," he said.

Kim Paul feels the same way.

"No mother on narcotics can be a good mother," she said.

She didn't like the "spacey" feeling she got from painkillers for her chronic back pain.

A few months ago they began a new, non-invasive treatment using deep-nerve stimulation called Biowave. Preliminary research found the deep wave reduced pain quickly and significantly. Although relief faded, one week later half the patients were using less pain medication.

"Until now we really didn't really have any good options," Dr. Johnny Benjamin explained. "It was basically good luck and here is a fistful of pain medications and all the side effects and addiction that comes with it."

Benjamin has used it on more than 100 patients and says it's more effective than other devices he's tried.

"This is one thing that gives us an option to try to help millions of people," he said.

Patches with electrodes are attached to the pain site. Each has more than a thousand tiny needles that carry electrical currents. Those electrical waves penetrate the nerves and seem to interrupt pain signals - blocking them before they reach the brain.

"A great deal of pain is perception. So if you can block or jam that wave going to the brain then you can trick the body into not feeling that pain nearly as much," Benjamin said.

Each 30-minute, in-office application costs about $300, which is sometimes offset by insurance. Patients get six treatments - one every day or two.

"It's kind of a tingling feeling like little needles going in," Kameronitz said. "And you control the intensity by the dial here."

This treatment doesn't heal the joint, and we still don't know whether it works over the long term. But it appears to be safe for people who'd try anything to make the pain go away.

If you have arthritis - there are 5,000 treatments. Why so many different treatments?

"Because there is no golden bullet," said Dr. Peter McCann. "There is not one that works."

"I really don't have time to stop for surgery, so this has been really good for me," Paul said.