Adiposis Dolorosa Pain Management

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Physical Modalities

Manual lymphatic massage has been described in multiple reports for symptom relief in patients with cancer with malignant growth causing outflow lymphatic obstruction. This technique also has been used to treat the obstructive symptoms seen with the lipomatous growths of AD. Lange and colleagues described a case as providing reduction in pain and the diameter of extremities with twice weekly massage.14 Herbst and colleagues noted that patients had an equivocal response to massage, with some patients finding that it worsened the progression of lipomatous growths.7

Electrocutaneous Stimulation

In a case study by Martinenghi and colleagues, a patient with AD improved following transcutaneous frequency rhythmic electrical modulation system (FREMS) treatment.16 The treatment involved 4 cycles of 30 minutes each for 6 months. The patient had an improvement of pain on the VAS from 6.4 to 1.7 and an increase from 12 to 18 on the 100-point Barthel index scale for performance in activities of daily living, suggesting an improvement of functional independence as well.16

The MC5-A Calmare is another cutaneous electrostimulation modality that previously has been used for chronic cancer pain management. This FDA-cleared device is indicated for the treatment of various chronic pain syndromes. The device is proposed to stimulate 5 separate pain areas via cutaneous electrodes applied beyond and above the painful areas in order to “scramble” pain information and reduce perception of chronic pain intensity. Ricci and colleagues included cancer and noncancer subjects in their study and observed reduction in pain intensity by 74% (on numeric rating scale) in the entire subject group after 10 days of treatments. Further, no AEs were reported in either group, and most of the subjects were willing to continue treatment.17 However, this modality was limited by concerns with insurance coverage, access to a Calmare machine, operator training, and reproducibility of electrode placement to achieve “zero pain” as is the determinant of device treatment cycle output by the manufacturer.

Perineural Injection/Prolotherapy

Perineural injection therapy (PIT) involves the injection of dextrose solution into tissues surrounding an inflamed nerve to reduce neuropathic inflammation. The proposed source of this inflammation is the stimulation of the superficial branches of peptidergic peripheral nerves. Injections are SC and target the affected superficial nerve pathway. Pain relief is usually immediate but requires several treatments to ensure a lasting benefit. There have been no research studies or case reports on the use of PIT or prolotherapy and AD. Although there is a paucity of published literature on the efficacy of PIT, it remains an alternative modality for treatment of chronic pain syndromes. In a systematic review of prolotherapy for chronic musculoskeletal pain, Hauser and colleagues supported the use of dextrose prolotherapy to treat chronic tendinopathies, osteoarthritis of finger and knee joints, spinal and pelvic pain if conservative measures had failed. However, the efficacy on acute musculoskeletal pain was uncertain.18 In addition to the paucity of published literature, prolotherapy is not available to many patients due to lack of insurance coverage or lack of providers able to perform the procedure.


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