Current Pain Management Devices and their Role in Reducing Chronic Pain


Pain management is an important part of healthcare. Chronic and acute pain can severely impact the quality of life of patients. While medications play a major role in pain management, devices are also becoming increasingly important tools for managing various types of chronic pain. This article discusses some of the commonly used pain management devices and how they help relieve pain.

Non-Invasive Devices

Several non-invasive devices have been developed in recent years that help manage pain without surgery or invasion of the skin. These include:

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Devices

TENS devices are one of the most popular non-invasive pain management tools. They work by using mild electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves and help reduce pain signals sent to the brain. TENS units are worn externally and attached to electrodes placed on the skin near the painful area. They are often used to treat lower back pain, arthritis pain, and neuropathic pain. Studies show that TENS therapy is effective in providing short-term pain relief for certain types of chronic and acute pain.

Low-Level Laser Therapy Devices

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or cold laser therapy involves applying low-power laser light to the skin near the painful area. The light is thought to alter cell functions in a way that reduces inflammation and pain. LLLT devices are hand-held devices that emit low-level laser beams. They are prescribed by physicians to treat arthritis, muscle strains, tendonitis and other soft tissue injuries. Research indicates LLLT may be as effective as NSAIDs or acetaminophen for short-term pain relief from certain conditions.

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy Devices

Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy devices emit low-frequency pulsed signals or electromagnetic fields through coils placed near the body. These pulsed fields are believed to stimulate cellular function in a way that reduces pain and inflammation. PEMF devices have been used to treat arthritis, osteoarthritis, bone fractures that are slow to heal and other orthopedic conditions. Studies show PEMF therapy may provide pain relief and help speed bone healing when used adjunctively with medications or other therapies.

Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy

For those with severe chronic pain that does not respond well to other treatments, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) devices may offer relief. SCS involves surgically placing thin wires or leads around the spinal cord to deliver mild electrical pulses. The pulses interfere with pain signals being sent from the body to the brain. SCS devices require minor surgery for implantation but do not involve destruction of nerve or brain tissue. They have been shown effective for managing pain from conditions such as failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, and peripheral artery disease.

Implantable Devices

For patients with severe intractable chronic pain, implantable devices that work around the clock may provide better pain relief than non-invasive options. These surgical options include:

Intrathecal Drug Delivery Systems

Intrathecal drug delivery systems, commonly known as pain pumps, involve surgically placing a programmable pump in the body that delivers pain medication directly into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. This allows the drugs to take effect in very small doses compared to oral medications. Intrathecal pumps are typically used to treat severe chronic pain from conditions such as cancer, failed back surgery syndrome and neuropathic pain. Studies show they provide superior around the clock pain relief compared to oral pain medications.

Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation

Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation is a newer type of implantable neurostimulation therapy for managing chronic leg or arm pain. In this procedure, a neurostimulator device is surgically placed under the skin to deliver mild electrical stimulation to DRG nerves near the spinal cord. This disrupts pain signal transmission in a different way compared to traditional SCS. Early research suggests DRG stimulation may be effective for treating neuropathic pain conditions like complex regional pain syndrome and potentially painful diabetic neuropathy when other options provide inadequate relief.

Patient-Controlled Analgesia Pumps

Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pumps are ambulatory, programmable devices surgically implanted in the abdomen that allow patients to self-administer boluses of pain medication like morphine on demand via a button. This ensures pain medication is delivered precisely as needed around the clock without relying on oral medications that may be delayed or inconsistent. PCA pumps aim to optimize pain relief while minimizing opioid side effects and are often used post-operatively or for chronic cancer or non-cancer pain.


As illustrated above, pain management has evolved significantly beyond relying solely on oral medications. Non-invasive and implantable neurostimulation and drug delivery devices now play an important role in providing targeted relief for various types of chronic and acute pain. By interfacing directly with the nervous system pathways involved in pain signaling and perception, these innovative devices can improve quality of life for patients when used appropriately as part of a comprehensive pain treatment plan. Continued research will help develop additional novel devices that build upon existing therapies to help manage pain conditions more effectively.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research

2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it