Body & Fitness

Benefits of shock therapy

Shock therapy isn't as scary as it sounds.
benefits of shock therapy, shock therapy, therapy shock

Mention the words shock treatment and the first image that is likely to spring to mind is of psychiatric patients being strapped to their beds, while electricity zaps through their bodies – but minor electric shock therapy may be able to treat a variety of conditions. Here are some ways it’s currently being used and others that are in the pipeline.

High blood pressure

Blood pressure is mostly controlled by sensors in the carotid artery in the neck, which carry blood to the brain. These send out signals to widen or narrow blood vessels. Electrical stimulation via electrodes implanted in the neck may activate these sensors and lower blood pressure in patients who don’t respond to medication. Doctors say treatments such as this could be a breakthrough for patients with high blood pressure who are unable to take the usual drugs.

Obesity

This may be hard to believe, but stimulating your scalp with electrical impulses may help you lose weight. A study at the US National Institute of Health has found that doing this over the part of the brain that controls feelings of fullness can reduce the amount you eat. The painless, 40-minute therapy is carried out three times a week for a month. The electrodes are placed over the prefrontal cortex – a part of the brain known to be less active in obese people.

Cystitis

Canadian researchers have used electrodes to stimulate the tail bone and found that many patients with painful cystitis, which causes a frequent and urgent need to urinate, noticed huge improvements. It’s thought that it works by blocking pain signals in the nerve that travels between the bladder and the brain.

Tinnitus

This condition, which causes ringing, buzzing or whooshing in the ears, may be able to be eased thanks to an electrode planted in the neck. Studies show the electrode can trigger nerve activity in the brain that distracts it from the ringing noise. The treatment is currently being trialled in Belgium.

Diabetes

A type of pacemaker implanted in the stomach may lower blood sugar levels in diabetics. The device sends out impulses that boost muscle activity in the stomach when food is eaten, which appears to stimulate the production of insulin. This in turn lowers blood sugar levels. Patients in an Austrian trial who had the device implanted showed a 25% drop in blood sugar after three months.

Dementia

Electrical stimulation of the scalp can improve memory and recognition in Alzheimer’s patients, according to Italian researchers. They applied weak electrical currents to the head to boost activity in the areas of the brain involved in processing words. They noticed that brain performance in the patients increased by nearly 20%.

Depression

Battery-powered devices that deliver mild electrical stimulation to the scalp may be able to help ease the symptoms of depression. A US study has found that targeting an area at the front of the brain which controls mood results in a noticeable improvement in at least two-thirds of patients. The researchers aren’t sure exactly why it works, but it is thought that the treatment stimulates blood flow to parts of the brain which trigger an increase in serotonin. This is the “feel good” brain chemical and low levels of it are associated with depression.

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