Scientists are lending an “ear tickler” to women experiencing pain from endometriosis.
Endometriosis — which causes heavy and painful periods — develops when tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvis, according to Mayo Clinic.
Roughly 10% of women and girls of reproductive age are affected by endometriosis, according to the World Health Organization.
While there is currently no known cure for the condition, there are treatments to reduce pain such as medication and/or surgery.
However, there is now an alternative approach that scientists hope will reduce the need for surgery to reduce pain.
The “ear tickler” transmits a mild electric current through the skin, which stimulates the vagus nervous — a nerve that runs through the chest into the brain and controls many functions such as swallowing and digestion.
Researchers believe that stimulating a branch of the vagus nerve will interrupt pain signals reaching the brain as well as tone down inflammation.
The device is a set of ear clips that are worn on both ears and connected to a small power pack, and it’s thought to be a safer alternative.
Studies on mice have proven that stimulation of the vagus nerve can ease endometriosis pain, showing lower pain scores and a reduction of inflammation.
“Pilot studies suggest this treatment has promise in endometriosis,” Jim Deuchars, a professor of neuroscience at Leeds University, who has been studying vagus nerve stimulation told Daily Mail.
“And since it is non-invasive, relatively cheap and not painful, it would be judged to be a success if it helps at least some of the patients,” he continued.
Researchers are taking the next step and are now conducting a trial on 72 women at Foch Hospital in France to see if using the gadget for 30 minutes twice a day for three months will lessen symptoms and prevent their endometriosis from getting worse.
Vagus nerve stimulation is already used for other conditions such as epilepsy, depression, cluster headaches and osteoarthritis.
This article was originally posted by The New York Post.