Topical Stimulation for Treating Neuropathy and Lymphedema

Here at ORW, we have a whole arsenal of techniques and methodologies for addressing symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments, such as neuropathy and lymphedema.  A lot of these therapies revolve around diet and exercise, as we’ve been discussing recently on the blog.  

But we also use and recommend a few specific medical devices.  In this article, we want to talk about two of our favorites: the ReBuilder® and the LymphaTouch®.

The TENS ReBuilder Unit for Neuropathy and Muscle Weakness

Neuropathy (see an earlier blog article for definition & symptoms) is medical-speak for “nerve disease.”  It includes nerve pain, numbness, weakness, and a host of other unpleasant effects.

There are many ways of addressing neuropathy, depending partly on root causes (which include chemotherapy), but one of the methods we prefer at ORW is electrical stimulation.

The ReBuilder® is a biocompatible form of TENS (transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation)  and EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) that can produce dramatic improvement in the reduction of painful symptoms.  It is a hand-held device that performs three functions simultaneously: 

  • Stimulation of the nerves for regrowth
  • Stimulation of the muscles for strengthening
  • Combined TENS electrostimulation to immediately (temporarily) block or numb nerve pain.

For a detailed technical description of generic TENS, see this PubMed article.  For details about the ReBuilder specifically, see the manufacturer’s website.

The ReBuilder® is unlike “standard” TENS, which uses a square wave, reduces pain but is not curative, and can even result in permanent nerve damage. Rather, the ReBuilder uses a wave that adapts to and corrects the specific deficiencies in the user’s electrochemical nerves impulses, retraining and repairing the nerves over time, while also providing short-term pain relief.

The ReBuilder® is FDA-registered and has become the standard of care in hospitals and cancer centers such as:

  • MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Cancer Treatment Centers of America
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • UCLA Health
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Kaiser Permanente

Based on outcome reports from many physicians and other physical therapy clinics in the DC Metro Area that are successfully using the device, we have invested in this treatment modality to aid in our successful treatment of CIPN and related disorders.

The ReBuilder® (electrical stimulation + neuromuscular stimulation) has a high success rate, 94% in one study, in treating CIPN pain and numbness.  It is “internally complex but externally simple” and is easy to use.  After appropriate training, it is a device you can use on your own at home, throughout the day.  Unlike pain-management drugs (or other forms of TENS), it has no risk of side effects or potential for overdose, and over the long term it is less expensive than drugs as well.

The LymphaTouch® Device for Treating Lymphedema, Pain, and Scarring

The LymphaTouch® machine is used for swelling and edema, pain management, scar treatment, fibrosis, and soft tissue restrictions, and in clinical studies it has produced excellent outcomes.  See a moving testimonial video from one cancer survivor here (not an ORW patient).

The device works by using negative pressure cupping to gently stimulate soft tissues and accelerate fluid drainage.  The “suction” opens up body tissues and lets intracellular wastes drain properly into the lymphatic system, while also providing a pumping action for the lymph network.  This pumping is normally provided by body movement, since the lymphatic system has no “heart”... but cancer patients are often necessarily sedentary and not getting enough movement.  This device can fill that gap.

This is a great tool for our patients and to date we have had very positive outcomes.  

CIPN Therapy Experiences of ReBuilder® and LymphaTouch®

What Does the ReBuilder® Feel Like?

The ReBuilder® produces a buzzing or tingling and perhaps warming sensation, and includes variable settings for controlling intensity.  Many patients even use the unit while sleeping.

What Does LymphaTouch® Feel Like?

“Negative pressure” means “suction,” so you will feel a definite suction sensation underneath the head of the device.  It has three basic settings, which will each feel somewhat different:

  • Pulsation – A shorter pulsation length can be used for tissue activation. A longer pulsation is applied for fascial decompression when the skin needs more pull. 
  • Vibration Higher frequencies target superficial layers of tissue and lower frequencies push the effect deeper into the tissue. 
  • Continuous – A constant negative pressure can be applied for facial treatments, to soften up tissue and loosen adhesions.

One blogger has written about her experience using the device here, along with some helpful tips.

Try these Therapies

Both of these devices produce rapid results.  Please schedule a phone consultation to determine if one or both of them might be appropriate in your situation.  Long-term healing of course takes time, but both of these therapies also offer immediate relief from the symptoms of neuropathy, lymphedema, and related ailments.  

We would love to have you book an appointment and try them out!