Diabetes patients – pain treatment

People with diabetes can develop painful polyneuropathy, which is the most frequent complication, affecting between twenty and forty percent of the patients. If people develop neuropathy, the nerves of the body, mostly the nerves in the feet or hands, do not function as they should. This can result in chronic pain which can be severely debilitating and is difficult to treat with medication.

“Treating polyneuropathy is challenging, since approximately 50% do not achieve sufficient pain relief. EEG-based neurofeedback is a promising new treatment which can impact the pain network in the brain, without the use of medicine. This new intervention needs further testing in people with diabetes. We expect this treatment reduce pain intensity with minimal side effects,” explains Frans Pouwer, professor of medical psychology from the University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

The brain is an organ that can be shaped and ‘modified’ throughout your life through learning techniques. By means of electrodes attached to the head an electroencephalograph measures the patient’s electrical activity in the brain. Using certain EEG-based neurofeedback training programmes the researchers aim to train the individual’s brain how to increase and reduce a specific brain activity.

The neurofeedback treatment of neuropathy lasts a total of ten sessions and the programme attempts to train the brain to manage and lower the pain. The project examines two randomised groups; in one group the individuals receive real EEG-NF and in the other they receive sham EEG-NF.

“We hope that the EEG treatment will result in lower pain intensity and reduced pain experience and with this improve the daily functioning and quality of life of diabetes patients with painful neuropathy. We are grateful for the donation from the Vissing Foundation, as we now get the chance to rigorously test a new treatment for a very burdensome problem,” says Frans Pouwer.