Health Team

Pain detection device helps single out problem muscles

Posted April 5, 2010 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2010 6:24 p.m. EDT

For more than a decade, Tartia Tafuto tried everything from acupuncture to yoga to treat her chronic back pain. Even surgery didn’t help.

Eighty percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, doctors say, and it's one of the most common reasons people miss work.

Tartia finally got the right diagnosis using a muscle pain detection device.

When a person moves, several different muscles in the back are used at the same time, making accurate diagnosis difficult. The detection device uses electric impulses to isolate each muscle.

“If we can move one muscle at a time, which we can with that device, and that muscle is painful but not the adjacent muscles, then we can say that muscle is the source of pain,” said Dr. Norman Marcus, director of muscle pain research at the New York University School of Medicine.

Once the point of pain is identified, the right treatment can be given, like an injection of anesthetic or physical therapy.

A recent NYU study found that the new device was more accurate than the old method pressing with fingers on muscles to find the pain.

“When we treated the muscles that were identified with the device, we got lasting, profound pain relief,” Marcus said.

Joe Valenzano said the device helped him avoid spinal surgery. “I haven't been able to do this kind of movement in years without any pain,” he said.

The detection device was invented five years ago. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the device for safety, and it is undergoing additional trials.