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Updated: Sep 9, 2021

A new headset device aims to make EEG-neurofeedback treatment more accessible for people with chronic pain, meaning expensive and complicated lab-based devices, pictured, no longer need to be relied upon.

A headset that harnesses the power of thought could be used to treat chronic pain.

In a small trial, patients experienced significant reductions in pain after wearing the device, which 'reads' their brainwaves and then trains their brain to better manage symptoms.

After using the headset for eight weeks, sleep, mood and quality of life all improved, and anxiety and depression were eased.

Chronic pain - defined as pain that persists for more than three months despite treatment - that is moderately to severely disabling affects eight million adults in the UK.

Common causes include arthritis, back problems and migraine.

Treatment options range from physiotherapy to painkillers, but they do not work for all, and the drugs can have side-effects and carry the risk of addiction.

The headset uses electro-encephalogram (EEG) technology, in which electrodes are attached to the scalp that pick up electrical activity in the brain.

EEG machines are widely used to diagnose conditions such as epilepsy. They can also be adapted for neurofeedback therapy, whereby the electrical data is transmitted to an app that the patient can access, to help them learn to control their brain activity and improve their symptoms.

EEG-neurofeedback is not widely available on the NHS, partly because it's expensive and involves visiting a hospital several times a week for several weeks.

But the new headset, called Axon, allows patients to try it at home.

"EEG-neurofeedback aims to change the way the brain interprets pain signals," explains Nick Birch, a spinal surgeon at the East Midlands Spine clinic in Daventry, Northamptonshire, who led the trial, which was funded by the manufacturer Exsurgo."

"We feel pain when specialised receptors in the skin, joints and organs send messages through nerves to the brain, which interprets them as pain."


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