Flux Health Forum

Increase in scalene muscle pain after using ICES

I was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome a year ago — One of the primary features of this disorder is dysfunction of the scalene muscle in the neck. I have had pain and stiffness in the scalene muscle for quite a while.

Using the M1 initially seemed to help, along with PT. However at one point I overdid the PT and my scalene muscle got tremendously overtrained and more painful than before. Using the ICES in this state actually makes the pain worse. The only thing that seems to help for now is to completely rest the muscle, abstaining from both PT and stopping use of the M1 ICES device.

This makes me wonder about the usefulness of PEMF when it comes to such muscle dysfunctions concerning extremely weak, fatty infiltrated and atrophied muscles. I have read many positive reports about pain relief when it comes to nerve and joint pain, but none when it comes to muscle pain.

@Bob Do you think that it is prudent to stop using ICES in a case like mine where it causes more discomfort and pain? Do you have any data or ideas on how PEMF affects muscle dysfunctions specifically?

Well, I have less information about muscle effects in general, but the first thing to consider is that “muscle dysfunction” is very broad, spanning such topics as overuse injuries, metabolic dysfunction, muscular dystrophy, scaring, acute injury, muscle-tendon injuries, denervation and nerve-muscle damage, fibromyalgia, and the list goes on endlessly. We shouldn’t expect one technology or one device to fix all problems.

Broadly speaking, considering all of the anecdotal reports I do get on the subject, generally the effects on muscle problems are what you might expect, based on the apparent actions on other tissues:

Problems that are the result of genetic issues, such as muscular dystrophy, generally would not be expected to benefit much from PEMF.

Injuries or dysfunction arising from disuse and atrophy also do not benefit a great deal. ICES-PEMF does not elicit neuro-muscular activation and contraction, nor does it seem to take the place of muscular contractions as a form of exercise.

Injuries that relate to mechanical damage to the tissue, with underlying inflammation, seem to respond as well as other tissues. Pain and inflammation is typically reduced, healing is accelerated 2x to 3x, etc.

So, while it is unrealistic to think that any one technology can fix everything, PEMF does seem to be very helpful for a very wide range of things, and if used properly it can help where no other approach seems to work.

As for discontinuing use in your particular case, that might be the best thing to do, or try much lower intensity and shorter durations of use,


Thank you for the detailed reply Bob. I was already using a very low power of 3, when the device seemed to be helping. But now I seemed to have a negative reaction even when the power is set to 1, if the device is worn for the whole night.

Based on what you said, it seems the device will not be helpful for me. But it was a good experiment.

Or another strategy is that you do not need to use it all night. Try it on that low setting for just 5 or 10 minutes. That might be helpful.

But if it keeps causing problems, then yes, you probably need to take a break from it.

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My two cents and experience with this, the muscle was probably overstretched too fast. I teach yoga and somatic meditation. When you are changing a muscle it needs to be done slowly. Most of my clients with this have these symptoms when they have taken the exercises too far too fast. Something like Feldenkrise, which is neurological reprogramming or qigong, will be a more gentle, softer, rewiring of the muscle/neurological connection.

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Some years ago I had an experience that may include some detail of use to you. I had a problem that got progressively worse over time. I was kept awake at night with pain in my hand, etc. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel, but after going to a number of specialists came to the conclusion that it was thoracic outlet syndrome. Along the way I learned how easily one could make a mistake and get carpal tunnel surgery when that is not the solution. Before getting to my solution I will take a detour and highly recommend you get the book ‘The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook’ and take a careful look at chapter 6. (You can download the book at https://www.pdfdrive.com/the-trigger-point-therapy-workbook-your-self-treatment-guide-for-pain-relief-e165354036.html
Anyway, after spending considerable time and effort looking in to solutions for carpal tunnel, then thoracic outlet, I went to a really good upper cervical specialist. The neck is best left to specialists. I would never let a regular chiropractor “crack” my neck. The best known line of specialists in upper cervical work is probably NUCCA (Network of Upper Cervical Chiropractor’s Association). They’ve been around a long time, gotten somewhat set in their ways, and are now involved in a turf war with some of their members who have gone on to newer modifications of their technique. These include QSM3, which promises to be a superior technique and torque release technique. There are also some “old school” upper cervical specialists. If it were me, I would find out who in my area has been doing upper cervical work the longest (it take a long time to get good at this) and has the best reputation. I would also be willing to try more than one. After considerable time, effort and money spent on specialists, I have not had any more trouble with the “carpal tunnel” that wasn’t really carpal tunnel.

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I have had that Trigger Point Therapy book for many years (along with a Backnobber) and have found them helpful. Thanks for the free PDF version link. I am just beginning to use the M1 ICES device including trying it with the Backnobber.