By Jennifer Arnold
Just thinking about going to the dentist gives some people a headache. But in Scarsdale, New York, headache sufferers are clamoring to get an appointment with dentist Mark Friedman. What they’re lining up for is time with a device that delivers a unique treatment called Intraoral Vasoconstriction (IVC), which seems to provide significant headache relief.
The treatment has made all the difference in the world to Lynn Michel, a 60-something New Yorker who had suffered with severe migraines for four years. She was taking heavy doses of prescription medication—as many as nine pills a day—for her migraines, and still had no relief. But after three or four IVC treatments, her headaches disappeared. “I became a human being again,” she says. Michel goes back for one or two treatments a year, but four years after her first visit, she’s still free of drugs—and migraines.
The theory behind the treatment is that the device eases inflammation on a particular spot on the gums (above the upper molars) that Friedman had noticed in many migraine sufferers. The inflammation presses on a nerve that runs from the jaw to the eye, causing the pain, says Friedman. “The treatment is something like putting an ice bag on a swollen ankle,” he says.
The handheld IVD device is made of two small metal tubes that circulate ice water. For each treatment, patients hold it to their gums just behind their upper molars for 30 to 40 minutes—then follow up at home by applying a topical anti-inflammatory gel. “The chilling jump-starts the process and relieves the pain,” Friedman says. “The gel then works to help prevent it from recurring.”
In one of Friedman’s studies, volunteers reduced the frequency and severity of their headaches by 81 percent after one month of treatment with the gel. In another, the method was more effective than Imitrex, the most common prescription migraine medication. (Plus, it’s free of Imitrex’s potential cardiovascular complications.) And soon it will be available to people who don’t live in Scarsdale; Friedman recently gained FDA approval for his way cool device, and plans to begin distributing it soon. Resources: headachecontrol.com
Fibromyalgia breakthrough. Conventional treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) often involves a parade of prescription drugs—sleeping pills, antidepressants, painkillers, and muscle relaxants. Unfortunately, these drugs only mask symptoms rather than tackle underlying causes, so FMS patients are faced with the prospect of taking them for the rest of their lives.
But David William Johnson thinks he’s found something more than just a Band-Aid. The Indiana doctor, who specializes in pain management, has seen lasting improvement in his fibromyalgia patients after treating them with antiviral agents.
While the idea that FMS might be caused by a virus isn’t new, Johnson’s approach adds something to the equation: He believes FMS is caused not by one specific virus, but by combinations of any number of them.
Johnson came up with the theory after he suffered a serious bout of the flu. “I noticed that my symptoms were very similar to those described by my fibromyalgia patients,” he says. Past research had not supported the virus connection, but in those studies, he knew, the volunteers had only been tested for one virus at a time.
Since last May, he’s tested more than 60 FMS patients for as many as 17 different viruses; in every single case, the patients have tested positive for anywhere from three to nine viruses. The most common culprits are herpes, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, coxsackie B, and varicella-zoster (aka shingles). Johnson theorizes that these viruses become intracellular parasites, stealing material from cells’ nuclei and mitochondria to fuel their growth. This cellular damage could explain the symptoms of fibromyalgia and often-related conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome.
Johnson uses natural antiviral therapies to treat his patients whenever he can; for instance, he treats people who test positive for any of the herpes viruses with 1,500 milligrams of lysine (an amino acid) once a day, or 400 mg of olive leaf extract four times a day. But for some viruses he has to resort to prescription antiviral medications.
Many of his patients report feeling better after a few months, and the five he’s retested had markedly lower virus levels than they did before getting the treatment. It can take as long as a year to be rid of a virus, or a group of viruses, but for people struggling to find an effective treatment for this little-understood and often intractable syndrome, it’s a welcome option.
Johnson is doing his best to spread the word. He’s talked to several national pain management and fibromyalgia organizations, and he recently discussed his theories with colleagues at the American Academy of Pain Management annual meeting.
“I’m just happy my approach is helping people,” he says.
Resources: If you’d like to learn more about Johnson’s work, mail a self-addressed 81/2” x 11” envelope (with three 49-cent stamps) to Dr. David Johnson, 350 West Columbia, Suite 100, Evansville, IN 47710.
Magnets for achy hips. Going up the stairs used to be a painful ordeal for Helen Maxey. The arthritis in her hip had worsened to the point where she had to pull herself up by the railing. “I could feel the crunching in my hip,” she says. She tried physical therapy and supplements to relieve the pain. They helped, but not enough.
Then the 68-year-old Washington native heard that a health clinic in nearby Renton was offering a new type of pain relief: a device called the Magnetic Molecular Energizer, or MME. Maxey got herself on the list of interested patients before the MME was actually available and was among the first to be treated. After about five sessions, she felt a difference; after ten, she felt great. “It’s just incredible,” she says.
Those ten sessions took a serious investment: Each one lasted ten to 12 hours and cost about $50 an hour. Altogether, Maxey had 112 hours of treatment over several months. “But it’s absolutely worth it,” she says. “Now I walk up stairs with no problem, and I can get back to my regular activities. I’ve even joined a gym and have been working out regularly.”
Just what is this marvelous machine, and how does it work? Dean Bonlie, a former dentist from Alberta, Canada, invented the device. In theory, it delivers a particular type of electromagnetic energy to trouble spots and speeds up the electron transfer process, which is fundamental to every biochemical action in the body. The idea is that such acceleration promotes the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Several years ago, Bonlie and his associates opened the Advanced Magnetic Research Institute of Washington, in Renton, where Maxey was treated. He says they have since used the MME on hundreds of people and have seen remarkable results with a variety of conditions in addition to arthritis, particularly those involving neurological or muscular damage, like stroke, spinal cord and brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and congestive heart failure.
The experience isn’t painful or even unpleasant: Patients sit or lie on a table positioned between the two electromagnets of the MME device, a large piece of equipment that is similar to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. (Claustrophobics needn’t worry: an MME session does not involve being closed inside a tunnel as an MRI typically does.)
Patients can read, listen to music, or sleep during treatment, and take breaks as necessary. Bonlie reports that some patients feel pain relief after just a few hours, and others experience a tingling feeling in the targeted area.
Right now, the MME device is being investigated by an institutional review board as part of the FDA approval process. Bonlie hopes for full approval in a few years. In the meantime the therapy is available at seven MME centers in this country.
“We’re finding new things that MME can do every day,” says Bonlie. “It’s been a very interesting journey.”