Ballpoint-like pen could provide relief to millions crippled by arthritis pain, say scientists. The handheld device contains a tiny needle-like tip that is cooled to minus 20c using liquid nitrogen - this is inserted just a few millimetres under the skin against a nerve.
Early tests show that the pen, gives instant relief with each treatment session taking just 30 to 45 minutes.
AdvertisementThe therapy can be repeated continually in a GP surgery or pain clinic
Cold temperatures are increasingly being employed by doctors to treat a range of pain conditions.
The treatment is called cryo-therapy, and is thought to work by blocking the ability of nerve fibres to transport signals.
The gadget is also tipped to work for a wide range of conditions, say the manufacturers, including headaches, arthritis, facial pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
"There is some evidence to show that cryotherapy can help to restore muscle function and reduce other types of pain," the Daily Express quoted an Arthritis Research UK spokeswoman as saying.
"People with osteoarthritis often find that hot and cold treatments, like hot water bottles and ice packs, can provide short-term relief for joint pain.
"To date, there have been no randomised trials conducted to show that cryotherapy can alleviate the pain caused by arthritis," she added.
The MyoScience "pen" works by putting cold liquid inside the device under high pressure when turned on - transforming it into an extremely cold gas which cools its metal tip.
The tip, which is the same thickness as a needle, is then inserted into the skin by a doctor which takes just seconds to cool the tissue.
Sensors within the device monitor the temperature of the skin throughout the treatment.
This ensures the tip stays cold enough to "hibernate" the nerves, but not so cold that it causes damage.
The manufacturers say the effects last for differing lengths of time depending on the condition being treated.
Clinical trials are underway with early data from more than 100 patients showing that it can be an effective treatment method.