Using Pulses Instead of Pills to Control Pain

Using Pulses Instead of Pills to Control Pain, Lynn R Webster, MD, @lynnrwebstermd, Russ Izzo,

By Guest Blogger Russ Izzo

A growing number of people suffering from all kinds of debilitating pain are experiencing relief from TENS therapy, which stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.

This type of therapy may seem relatively new, but it’s actually been around for quite some time. If you can cast your mind back to around 2500BC, that’s when the Egyptians were using the electric currents from of electric eels to try and ease their various pains. We’ve certainly come a long way since then, and no competent mind is going to recommend you go slapping such a creature onto your skin. Today, electric current as a pain reliever comes in the form of small and affordable devices that are easily used — and definitely won’t deliver a shocking zap.

 Seeking Alternative Pain-Relief Methods

Here in the U.S., many people are rightly looking for anything other than prescription drugs — opioids in this case — to relieve them of the many types of lingering, moderate and severe pains we experience in modern-day life. A TENS device may help ease pain at various points of the body, particularly the muscles of the lower back, one of the most common areas of discomfort.

Just everyday tasks and activities, from work to household chores and strenuous workouts, can lead to stiffness and soreness of the lower back region. TENS devices work by sending gentle electrical pulses to pads placed on the affected area, providing relief to the sufferer, with no need to pop any pills.

So popular is this form of pain relief becoming in this country, there’s now a range of different devices to choose from–everything from an electronic pulse massager to a neck and back massager and, perhaps for the more adventurous among us, even a shiatsu back massager.

Official Guidance on TENS Therapy

In Britain, the much-admired National Health Service is also getting in on the TENS therapy action. It advises people thinking about TENS to first have a chat with their doctor or pain clinic, some of which may have their own TENS machines that they loan or rent to patients.

It also says that for the average person, there are no side effects from using TENS machines. That does not mean everyone can use them, however; it’s recommended that you seek medical advice before using a TENS device if you have a pacemaker, a heart problem or epilepsy. Women who are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant should also first discuss using a TENS device with their medical provider.

Here, health authorities say that while more research into the field of TENS therapy is required, “It seems that stimulation intensity is a critical factor for the effectiveness of TENS. One meta-analysis was able to show the positive treatment effects of electrical stimulation for relief of chronic musculoskeletal pain, and randomized controlled trials consistently demonstrate the effectiveness of TENS for acute, emergent and postoperative pain conditions.”

Clearly, anything we can do to wean ourselves off the instinct to reach for a pill to deaden our pain is surely a good thing. TENS therapy may well offer the jolt back to our senses that we need.

Author bio:

Russ Izzo is the founder and CEO of TruMedic.


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Purchase my book The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain Is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us (available on Amazon) or read a free excerpt here.

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