Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptom severity can be reduced with vagus nerve stimulation, according to research. Lead author professor Paul-Peter Tak said, “This is the first study to evaluate whether stimulating the inflammatory reflex directly with an implanted electronic device can treat RA in humans. We have previously shown that targeting the inflammatory reflex may reduce inflammation in animal models and in vitro models of RA. The direct correlation between vagus nerve stimulation and the suppression of several key cytokines like TNF as well as reduced RA signs and symptoms demonstrates proof of mechanism, which might be relevant for other immune-mediated inflammatory diseases as well.”
“Our findings suggest a new approach to fighting diseases with bioelectronic medicines, which use electrical pulses to treat diseases currently treated with potent and relatively expensive drugs,” added Anthony Arnold, chief executive officer of SetPoint Medical. “These results support our ongoing development of bioelectronic medicines designed to improve the lives of people suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases and give healthcare providers new and potentially safer treatment alternatives at a much lower total cost for the healthcare system.”
Coauthor Kevin J. Tracey concluded, “This is a real breakthrough in our ability to help people suffering from inflammatory diseases. While we’ve previously studied animal models of inflammation, until now we had no proof that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve can indeed inhibit cytokine production and reduce disease severity in humans. I believe this study will change the way we see modern medicine, helping us understand that our nerves can, with a little help, make the drugs that we need to help our body heal itself.”
The vagus nerve was stimulated during a surgical procedure and activated and deactivated on a set schedule to measure 84 days. Of the 17 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, several who failed to respond to alternative treatments demonstrated a great response to vagus nerve stimulation.
Tips to reduce your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
Pain is a major symptom in rheumatoid arthritis and can be debilitating, so pain management is the patients’ number one concern. Here are some tips to reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
- Take inflammation medications.
- Take pain-specific medications.
- Eat healthy – even though there is only limited evidence that a certain diet can improve RA symptoms, healthy eating is always good for your overall well-being.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Go for massages.
- Get in regular exercise.
- Use orthoses to support the joints.
- Apply heat and cold packs.
- Try acupuncture.
- Try transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which is a low-voltage electrical current that stimulates nerve to interfere with pain pathways.
By following these tips and working closely with your rheumatologist you can find effective ways to combat your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.