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ICC Sydney

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Alpha brainwave entrainment (BWE) technology for the management of chronic pain

Session outline

One in 5 adults worldwide suffers with chronic pain. It is well reported that conventional treatments provide inadequate pain relief, as well as unpleasant side effects.

Studies of neural oscillatory activity (“brainwaves”) have demonstrated that increased activity in the alpha frequency (7-14Hz) is associated with reduced pain. In recognition of this urgent public health problem, The Human Pain Research Group at the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool have shown encouraging preliminary results using alpha BWE as a non-pharmacological treatment for chronic pain. Further work is ongoing to determine the acceptability and feasibility of using smartphone-based technology to deliver the BWE at home, and to determine the duration (“dose”) of entrainment required to produce optimal pain relief.

The workshop will discuss the epidemiology and pathophysiology of chronic pain and introduce the theory of BWE as a safe, non-pharmacological treatment modality. The workshop will consider the work that has already been done, and share preliminary findings from a current study investigating the feasibility of home-based technology and treatment duration. Delegates gain practical experience with the technology if desired. Finally, the workshop aims to propose future potential use of the technology to manage chronic pain, and to facilitate discussion between delegates on ongoing work in this area.

Learning outcomes

  • To know the epidemiology and definition of chronic pain and recognise this as a significant global health problem.
  • To understand the pathophysiology of chronic pain.
  • To appreciate the requirement for safe, better tolerated treatments for chronic pain.
  • To gain a basic understanding of the neural oscillatory activity (“brainwaves”) and the theory behind increasing alpha power as a potential treatment for chronic pain.
  • To develop an understanding of the current published literature in this field.
  • To gain an overview of our current Home-based Smartphone Brainwave Entrainment technology study and know the preliminary results.
  • Attendees will have the opportunity to gain practical experience with the technology.
  • To facilitate discussion for development of further research in the area and discuss ways in which pathways could be developed to implement the technology in clinical practice.

Target audience

  • Rehabilitation physicians
  • Academics (basic science scientists)
  • Allied Health Professionals
  • Medical practitioners
  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Nursing staff
  • General public