As an MS specialist nurse, I have always been aware of how much pain can be a problem in MS. The big one is ‘neuropathic’, or unpleasant burning, tingling or shooting pains that are the result of inflammation, or scarring in the nervous system. ‘Normal’, or ‘nociceptive’ type pain in MS can typically include cramping muscle spasm, pain in stiff or very tired muscles, or the sorts of back or joint pains that can be caused by by being less mobile, or putting a strain on certain joints. Because the medications used, especially for neuropathic pain, can cause very problematic side-effects, including increased fatigue, weight gain, cognitive impairment, co-ordination problems and mood problems, I have always been on the lookout for new, natural, or left-field treatments.
I heard about APS Therapy when my friend, and lead for the NHS pain management team in Hull, called to say that I might be interested in a training they were having.
They had heard about some work being done in a hospice outpatient setting, by a palliative care consultant, ( Dr. Lia Van der Plaat, second from the right) which had managed to alleviate pain in some people, including some people with MS, with otherwise intractable pain.
This led to the team applying for and winning a commissioning prize to run a pilot study in people with MS, and people with rheumatoid arthritis.
And now Maurice ( on the left) was coming to the UK to teach the team how to use their new machines. Did I want to attend? Of course I did!
Having had our training from Maurice, I was all fired up to get going; Dr Lia kindly agreed to present her findings to my team at the Beds and Northants MS Therapy centre, my boss proactively responded and got funding for our first APS Therapy machine, and off we went with our first users! We meticulously kept data on pain levels before and after a course of treatment, and quite soon the clinic was very popular, running at full capacity and needing second machine.
It actually took a year before the Hull team were able to start their study, and by this time, we were able to share a lot of information in order to help them design their study. We had noticed that APS Therapy users often reported other benefits as well as pain relief, most commonly, improvements to energy, sleep and wellbeing, and recommended that they also keep outcomes for these.
Our clinic has now been running for 5 years, now using 4 APS Therapy clinic machines, and one home-use rental machine, and is very busy every weekday, with lots of really happy stories of improved pain and symptoms, and less use of medication.
Given that the APS has:
- reduced my fatigue
- Allowed me to reduce my intake of pregabalin
- allowed me to come off the voltarol altogether,
I think it is a no-brainer that I should continue! – Meryl Lovatt, Northamptonshire.
What is an APS Therapy machine?
APS stands for action potential simulation. An APS Therapy machine sends a copies of the action potential, or nerve signal, through the body, in between two sets of electrodes on the skin.
What are action potentials?
Action potentials are the tiny waves of electricity that pass down nerves and other cells, conducting the nerve signal and stimulating cellular functions. Action potential simulation therapy machines send a copy of this wave, or ‘wave form’ , and also stimulate the body’s own action potentials, between electrodes on to the skin. This results in better communication between cells, improved removal of the waste products of inflammation, and increased production of the hormone melatonin, pain releiving neuro-transmitter leukine encephalin and the energy carrying molecule, adensoine triphosphate, or ATP.
What are the benefits?
The results to the user can include:
- reduction in, or sometimes complete relief of pain,
- enhanced energy/reduced fatigue,
- enhanced recovery from injury,
- faster recovery from exercise, and in many cases,
- improvement to sleep quality and quantity.
So what were the results with our patients?
In Bedford, we have been running our clinic now for over 5 years, but at the 2 year point, we compiled and analysed the outcome measurements, and were able to show a statistically significant reduction in pain in our users, in a paper and also clinical posters, which were exhibited at a number of international MS conferences in 2016.
In the first 2 years we treated 60 people with a 6 week course of APS Therapy 2-3 x a week, for pain.
(We planned for 3 x a week, but in reality this was often 2) We found that 78% of those people had a reduction in pain; 23% to pain free.
The average reduction in pain was 3.22 for ‘usual’ pain, and 4.78 for ‘worst’ pain on the
10 point ‘Visual Analogue Scale’ (VAS)
In practice, there was a great variety, from no change, to dramatic drops from high pain levels to pain free, as you can see on the following charts. This is joint pain and injury at ‘usual level’ ( dark is before a course of treatment, light is after)
And here at ‘worst level’
Our biggest group was ‘neuropathic pain in feet and legs’:
Average VAS (0-10 scale) pre: 6.06 Average post: 2.65
And here is the same pain at ‘worst’ levels:
Average VAS Pre: 8.3 Post: 3.6
The other pain groups were ‘other neuropathic pain’, ‘joint pain or injury’, ‘back pain’ , ‘headaches’ and ‘other nociceptive pains’; all of these groups had an overall reduction in pain; the greatest was for ‘joint pain and injury’.
We found that whilst joint pain, musculoskeletal pain and injury sometimes needed only a short course of treatment to be resolved, neuropathic pain in MS is very often helped, but if it is long term, is likely to need maintenance after the first 6 weeks, of once a week treatment, which for most people, is enough.
In general, people were extremely happy with the treatment. 33 of these first 60 people reduced or discontinued medication as a direct result, which also added to their wellbeing.
We haven’t stopped keeping data, just haven’t stopped recently to collate it! One of the most enjoyable things about being involved in running an APS Therapy clinic at work, is hearing about people with MS reporting not just pain relief, but many other benefits, and the positive impact this has had on their quality of life.
We’ve had reports of reduction in spasms, elevation in mood, improvement to sleep quality, cessation of recurrent UTIs when on 3 x week, disappearance of fatty/benign lumps, improvements to constipation, hormonal balance, and have just had some really big breakthroughs with trigeminal neuralgia.
The most common of the ‘other benefits’ have been energy improvement/fatigue reduction, and because of this, our clinic is now open for people who want to try APS for these reasons, or to help after relapse, when recovery seems to have hit a plateau.
APS Therapy is not a cure for, nor does it have an effect on the course of MS, however, it is a very exciting treatment for some of the invisible, but also potentially disabling symptoms of the condition, especially as there is no risk, and is generally free of side-effects.
We are lucky to have had a wonderful team of volunteers in our APS Therapy clinic, led by our clinic manager, Heather, to teach and assist people, and in my private business I hire, sell and allow people to trial APS Therapy, teaching them how to use it over Skype, Facetime or Whatsapp videocalling.
Action Potential Simulation could be thought of as a ‘natural pain treatment’. It’s not just for people with MS, but it makes sense that people with MS respond particularly well to it, as the problems in MS are due to the inability of the body to conduct its action potentials down damaged nerves.
At www.painfreepotential.co.uk there are lots of words from people with MS, who have successfully used an APS Therapy machine to reduce pain, reduce spasms, come off medication in order to start families, boost themselves back after relapse and improve energy levels.
As well as MS, I also Suffer with Anklosing Spondylitis which gives me quite a lot of back pain. The MS itself was making me feel exceptionally tired & I was struggling with bad head aches & a recurring sinus issue.
A treatment plan was put together for me & within 2 weeks of starting the treatment I was no longer waking up every morning with bad headaches. My energy levels were greatly improved & my backache was reduced.
… using this machine in addition to leading a healthy lifestyle has helped me to stay active & continue to enjoy an active lifestyle. – Kat Miller, Bedfordshire.
A recent one that made me smile was from Nina Pearce, from Chelmsford, who said:
Alongside my role as clinical nurse specialist in MS, I have now also taken on the training and distributorship for APS Therapy in the UK, calling my company ‘Painfree Potential’. In this way I’ve been able to train 11 other MS Therapy centres around the country, who now also offer APS Therapy: Leicestershire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Hampshire, Cardigan, Exeter, Manchester, Sutton and Croydon, Suffolk and the MS-UK Wellness centre in Colchester.
It’s my aim to attract researchers to conduct large scale clinical research so that we can explore the possibilities of APS Therapy and make it more widely known about; in the meantime, this year, with supervision from the University of Bedfordshire, as part of an MSc by research, I aim to carry out a clinical trial on the effects of APS Therapy in people with MS, with MS Nurse colleagues in the NHS.