Scratching the Surface
The market for surface stimulation products and systems,
which includes TENS devices targeted at pain control and neuromuscular
stimulators designed for rehabilitation and exercise therapy, has
generally been regarded as an ugly stepsister of the neurostimulation
field. Although application of electrical energy to the skin predates
implanted or percutaneous stimulation by many decades, many researchers,
manufacturers, and clinicians have come to regard TENS and other
surface stimulation treatments with a bit of skepticism.
The pain control bandage marketed by Cyclotec
Medical [see article, p1] offers
the potential to change both the perception and the performance
of surface stimulation manufacturers. The companys adhesive-applied
TENS and neuromuscular stimulation products do not present any great
breakthrough in neurostimulation technology or clinical science.
But what they do accomplish is demonstrate how novel packaging,
marketing, and positioning can transform a seemingly moribund technology
into one with market promise, media attention, and customer acceptance.
Cyclotecs leadless and compact devices not only give the user
more freedom and flexibility than previous stimulation devices,
they also challenge the notion that TENS and neuromuscular stimulation
users are home-bound, elderly, sedentary, or clinician-dependent.
The company clearly envisions a customer base that is more active,
independent, and economically self-sufficient than typical surface
stimulation recipients of today.
While it is too early to say how successful Cyclotec will be in
its goal to produce very-compact electronic band-aids
sold over the counter, the effort is a laudable one, in our opinion.
Even if the new devices prove no more efficacious than current TENS
systems, todays retail pain-control marketwhich includes
everything from Tylenol to herbal supplements to topical creams
to unique exercise devicescould hardly be worse off for the
A vibrant over-the-counter market for low-cost, low-power stim devices
could produce other benefits for the neurotechnology industry. It
might help lower the unit cost for miniaturized power supplies.
It might hasten the interaction between stimulation and orthotic
and sporting apparel manufacturers. It might enable neurostimulation
manufacturers and distributors to deepen their product
lines with a range of devices at different price points, power levels,
and degrees of invasiveness. And it would certainly help acquaint
the buying public with the general capabilities of electrical stimulation.
And who knows what other market stimulation effects may lie beneath
Editor and Publisher