Pain in athletes is ideally treated without systemic medicine. Therefore, complementary and alternative medicine, including patch treatments, is often used. The physiologic mechanisms of pain relief produced by patch treatment, however, are not well elucidated. In the present study, we introduce a pyramidal thorn (PT) patch that we developed, demonstrate the effects of this PT patch for the treatment of various types of pain in 300 subjects, and suggest a physiologic mechanism for the pain relief effects. One treatment with the PT patch effectively relieved pain in almost half the subjects evaluated. Except for pain generated deeply under the skin, such as low-back pain, pain was eliminated within four treatments with the PT patch in almost all of the subjects. Interestingly, the pain-sensing region moved along the nerve fibers after each trial. Further, patches without PT also provided some pain relief. We considered that this effect was due to hair deflection on the skin; that is, adhesion of the PT patch activates Merkel cells directly as well as Merkel cell-neurite complexes around the hair follicles by deflecting the hair follicles, whereas adhesion of a patch without PT only activates the Merkel cell-neurite complexes. In any case, patch adhesion stimulates Aβ fibers to alleviate pain. Finally, we found that the pain threshold is increased by electric stimulation, suggesting that the gentle adhesion of a PT patch would be more effective. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate physiologically the validity of an adherent patch for pain relief.
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