TENS therapy stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation that uses a low-voltage electrical current to provide pain relief. Women are starting to use TENS as a natural pain reliever during childbirth and sufferers of fibromyalgia find that TENS provides great relief.
How It Works
It’s possible to do TENS on your own using a special battery-powered machine. TENS machines are about the size of a pocket radio and involve connecting two electrodes to your skin. The electrodes are the wires that transfer the electrical current from the machine.
Positioning of the electrodes is important to experience maximum pain relief. They need to be placed at the pressure point or near the area of pain. When the electrical current is turned on, the impulses travel along the fibers of the nerves.
There are two reasons or theories that explain the effectiveness of electrical therapy in pain management.
1. It’s thought that the electricity stimulates the nerves that send signals to block or mix-up the normal pain signals the brain sends out.
2. Some believe that when the nerves are electrically stimulated, they’re encouraged to block endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Increased endorphin production is thought to block the perception of pain.
Can Be Done at Home
TENS therapy is a type of treatment that you can do on your own at home. But before you can take it home and use it, you will need proper instruction in how to use it as well as an introduction to the machine.
The TENS machine can be set on different wavelength frequencies and electrical current intensity. It’s possible to set it for a burst of electrical current or for a steady flow of low-voltage electricity. Usually your doctor, acupuncturist or physical therapist will determine these settings.
Is It Safe?
Medical experts generally agree that TENS treatment is safe if done correctly. Individuals with circulation problems may be advised against using TENS.
Generally this type of alternative therapy is used in conjunction with conventional therapies.
Those with chronic numbness, pacemakers or epilepsy should not use TENS therapy. It shouldn’t be used near the eye or on the carotid sinus, a major artery in the neck that provides oxygen and blood to the neck and the head.
So, Does it Work for Fibro?
The answer to this question is both yes and no, depending on your perspective. Not all medical experts agree that TENS treatment is effective for providing relief of fibromyalgia pain but some would agree that it could help relieve the pain symptoms of associated conditions.
Fibromyalgia pain tends to be chronic and widespread. According to Dr. April Chang-Miller of the MayoClinic, “TENS therapy isn’t likely to be an effective fibromyalgia treatment” since fibromyalgia pain is so widespread and not limited to just one area.
One women who suffers from fibromyalgia says that TENS therapy provided some relief of shoulder, elbow and lower back pain. But she also sufferers from cervical disc problems and admits she’s not sure if the pain was caused by the fibromyalgia or the disc problems.
Beverly, another fibromyalgia sufferer, says that she has been using TENS therapy for ten years. “It helps my fibro pain in the spine and joints where I experience the most pain,” she says. “For me it’s short-term relief. I use it mostly when everything is flaring up at once.”
Another fibro sufferer, a woman in her early 30s, says TENS therapy “drove her nuts.” She acknowledges that not everyone is the same, but this type of alternative therapy didn’t work for her. “I didn’t get any relief from the pain with it,” she says.
There have been limited clinical studies as to the effectiveness of TENS treatment. In the studies that have been done, those with fibromyalgia experienced a modest amount of pain relief, according to Dr. Brian Walitt, one of the medical experts from RheumMD.org, a site sponsored by the non-profit rheumatology research group the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases.