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October 19, 2015

Sidelined No More – Scrambler Therapy Puts Tess Wilson Back in Action

By Hoyt Finnamore

Tess Wilson is enjoying life again after scrambler therapy helped her chronic pain. Each year after their big Thanksgiving meal, Tess Wilson's family has a tradition of playing games in a gym to burn off some calories. For much of her high school and college years, Tess spent that afternoon sitting on the sidelines watching the rest of her family run around. Severe, chronic pain made it impossible for her to join in the fun.

Thanksgiving Day 2014 was different. On that day, Tess was in the thick of the action. She played capture-the-flag, hide-and-go-seek, soccer and tag.

"I was incredibly sore the next day, but not in a chronic pain way," she says. "I just used muscles that I had forgotten were there."

The change came as a result of Tess' participation in a a clinical research trial at Mayo Clinic that studied the effects of a new treatment for chronic nerve pain, called scrambler therapy. After two weeks of the therapy, Tess found relief from the constant pain that had been plaguing her for five years. 

Fighting daily pain

At 17, Tess was a high school varsity athlete. She enjoyed being active and ran in 5K races. That year she suffered an injury to her right foot. Although the damage seemed minor, the pain wouldn't go away. As time went on, it got worse, spreading from her foot, up her shin, into her knee.

Tess was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. It's an uncommon form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. The condition typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack. But the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury. Symptoms may change over time, and they can vary from one person to another. The most common symptoms are continuous burning or throbbing pain, swelling, redness and hypersensitivity, particularly to cold and touch. The condition can be debilitating, and effective treatment often is hard to find.

"I was in pain almost every single day," says Tess. "I went from running 5Ks to relying on crutches or pain medications just to walk around the grocery store. My skin became so hypersensitive that a sock or even a slight breeze would cause excruciating pain."

Tess tried treatment after treatment. Nothing provided consistent relief. In the fall of 2014, the pain was intense, and Tess felt like she was stuck. When she heard about the scrambler therapy study at Mayo Clinic, Tess was eager for the chance to try an innovative solution. But in light of her lack of success with other treatments, she wasn't particularly optimistic.

Retraining the brain

Doctors suspected Tess's complex regional pain syndrome was a result of nerve damage. The damaged nerves were sending inaccurate signals to her brain that triggered the pain she felt in her foot, shin and knee.

Scrambler therapy works by using a nerve stimulation device to mix another signal into the transmission from the damaged nerves to the brain. Basically, it replaces the information that signals pain with information that does not signal pain. The therapy involves placing electrodes connected to the scrambler device on the skin near damaged nerves. The scrambler sends painless electrical signals to those nerves that they relay to the brain. The new signals break the pain cycle and retrain the brain to understand that it is not really experiencing pain.

"The first day I was hooked up to the scrambler, I didn’t know what it to expect," says Tess. "The buzz and prickle of the electricity was such a foreign sensation. It wasn’t painful, but not quite pleasant. It almost tickled. One of the buzzing waves washed over a particularly painful area of my knee and replaced the pain with the buzzing, only for a moment and only in that spot. I was surprised, but I held onto my skepticism."

Slowly, though, Tess began to notice a big difference. After five days of scrambler therapy, she was able to relax in a hot tub — a luxury she hadn't enjoyed since her original injury because both water and temperature changes usually made her pain skyrocket. By the end of her two-week treatment, she could walk pain-free for the first time in years. Her sleep had also improved dramatically because she could go to bed without discomfort at night.

Looking to a brighter future

Tess finished her treatment just before Thanksgiving 2014, when she was finally able to join in the games with her family. Over the next month, the pain remained at bay. She started a part-time job and began running again.

As can sometimes happen for people undergoing scrambler therapy, Tess began to notice the pain slowly returning throughout the next several months. In April 2015, she went back to Mayo Clinic for a four-day booster treatment with the scrambler. The results did not disappoint her, and Tess is now optimistic about the long-term possibility of keeping her chronic pain in check.

"I had accepted the fact that I’d probably live my entire life in pain," she says. "Now, the scrambler is working wonders for me. For the first time in five years, I feel like I’ve finally found a treatment that can permanently change my future."



Tags: chronic pain, clinical trials, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Scrambler Therapy, Uncategorized

How can I learn more about this? Which location was this done in? I would love to get my daughter an appointment with the doctor who did this. She has had CRPS for 11 years and is in horrible pain each day. She is a patient at Mayo in MN already.


This procedure was done at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus. If your daughter is a Mayo Clinic patient, contact your primary physician to get a referral into the Pain Clinic for a Scrambler evaluation.


There is a unit near Chicago.

SPERO Pain Relief Therapy of Illinois
Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP
1105 Milwaukee Avenue
Riverwoods, IL 60015
Tel: 847.520.7111


Here is a list of clinic locations that have that Scrambler device:

The list is on a site named “Calmarett”. There is a “Locations” tab.

Apparently. there are 16 US Government/ Military Hospitals that have the device too.


Can this help neuropathy due to diabetes 2?


You can go calmare therapy is the best solution for your this problems .The Calmare® device uses a biophysical rather than a biochemical approach. A ‘no-pain’ message is transmitted to the nerve via disposable surface electrodes applied to the skin in the region of the patient’s pain. The perception of pain is cancelled when the no-pain message replaces that of pain, by using the same pathway through the surface electrodes in a non-invasive way. Regardless of pain intensity, a patient’s pain can be completely removed for immediate relief. if you looking in USA.
contact US :-5341 S. Superstition Mountain Drive, Unit D101, Gold Canyon AZ, 85118
(480) 983-2249


I live on the Central Coast. Monterey Bay California, I’ve had 5 back surgeries. The 1st surgery led to 2,3,4,& 5 because after the 1st surgery, my left leg has never been the same. CRPS is what they call it. Can I be helped?


Feet need pain relief. What ever will work I am for!!.


@mschris Curious to know the origin of your foot pain. If it’s a result of diabetic neuropathy, CRPS or post-surgical pain. Calmare may be a viable treatment option for you. Dr. Cooney


Does this help someone with HNPP…hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsy?


Does this help with small fiber neuropathy as found in erythromelalgia? Could it help Erythromelalgia patients?


Is a patient a candidate for scrambler therapy if they have a St Jude’s SCS implant? our 43 year old son, former college athlete, has developed CRPS after TKR three years ago, and is progressively getting worse month by month .. Thank you

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