Q&A: Pain management expert discusses Sunbeam Pain Relief’s heat therapy approach

Dr. Edgar Ross, a senior clinician at Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, tells Drug Store News how Sunbeam is rethinking pain relief with heat therapy. 


Drug Store News: What makes Sunbeam Pain Relief’s approach unique?  
Edgar Ross: As a pain management doctor, I see people when they are at their worst. Suffering from pain can take an incredible toll, physically and emotionally. It can affect everything from mobility and independence to productivity and relationships. When people are in pain, they will do anything to alleviate it, which of course can lead to overuse of medications — be they prescribed, controlled or over-the-counter. 

What I appreciate about Sunbeam Pain Relief is that it provides a smarter approach to pain relief that leverages heat therapy to treat pain. It doesn’t reinvent, but rather rethinks pain treatment. Heat therapy gives people an opportunity to proactively help manage chronic pain levels and increase tissue healing when used for a minimum of 20 minutes as a part of their relief regimen.

Let me explain what I mean. For all of history, across cultures from Egyptians to Native Americans, people have been using heat to treat muscle pain. It wasn’t until 1911, though, that Earl Holmes Richardson invented the first electric heating pad, which he called the “El Warmo.” The basic concept of Richardson’s El Warmo stands the test of time, so there’s no need to come up with something entirely new. But even the best inventions become outdated. What Sunbeam has done in rethinking relief is take this good concept and make it great by modernizing it to meet today’s needs. 

DSN: Heat therapy has become a big topic with consumers looking for relief from aches and pains. Tell us what you are doing in this segment.  
ER: What’s old is new again, as long as it is modern. People have experimented, they’ve tried different drugs, acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, surgery — you name it. And though those treatments are typically regarded as mutually exclusive, practitioners pretty much across the board will suggest that patients supplement treatment with heat therapy. Heat is clinically proven to relieve pain associated with muscle tension and stress. It promotes blood flow to the source of your pain to increase tissue healing, for relief that lasts. Additionally, in my experience, I have even seen an impact to overall mood and mental well-being. People feel warmth physically, and they translate that into warmth emotionally. Heat therapy is definitely experiencing a resurgence, not only as a supplemental therapy, but as a primary therapy. 

DSN: You have joined with Sunbeam and the U.S. Pain Foundation for Pain Awareness Month in September. Tell us about that. 
ER: As a doctor, I see the individual toll pain is taking on our country and do what I can as an individual to help people feel better, but partnering with Sunbeam and the U.S. Pain Foundation for Pain Awareness Month gives me the opportunity to understand the depth and breadth of the problem and contemplate how I can have a bigger impact by building awareness. Pain is a real problem in our country. It’s not only the No. 1 reason people seek medical attention, but 50 million people live with chronic pain. I hope that through my collaboration with both Sunbeam and the U.S. Pain Foundation, I can help change those numbers and help people live happier, healthier lives with their pain well under control.  

DSN: What would you say the future holds for pain management? 
ER: There’s a stigma associated with pain, no doubt about it. People don’t want to be perceived as weak or limited, so often they will suffer through their pain. This, of course, makes it worse. So, that smart rethinking that Sunbeam has done to modernize heat therapy is going to become even more integral. I can see innovations around even more flexible and portable heat therapy options becoming all the more relevant, something Sunbeam is already offering. People won’t stop for anything — not even pain — so we’re going to have to problem solve on the go, literally.