Can someone explain to me what tens is?

Question: Can someone explain to me what tens is? I saw an advert in my gardening magazine which claims it is the ultimate in pain relief, but didn’t actually give any facts! Looked like a lot of people wired up to electrodes. Has anyone tried this for RSI?

Answer 1: I think I had it at the physio early on after I was diagnosed. Yes, you do get wired up and the machine vibrates the little patches wired to you. You can then turn the dial to the most buzzing and tingling and vibration as you can stand, the more the better it works I think. I didn’t find it very pleasant at the time and it provided me with only short term, although reasonably effective relief. Looking back I think it must have been a bit like massaging the muscles etc but simply not nearly deep enough! Hope this clears things up – if I am wrong and what I had was something different, or someone has had a better experience please let us all know!

Answer 2: My wife hired a TENS machine to help her through labour. The electric shocks stimulate the body to produce its own pain relief endomorphins. It’s a bit like scratching yourself when you’ve got an itch. It was useful at the start, but she went on to more powerful pain relief later. I tried the device on my back and found it effective. Warning – make sure you turn the power controls the right way – I zapped it up to full power thinking I was turning it off. Ouch!!

Answer 3: I think I may have had this treatment when I was having physio. I was wired up to a machine and had these pads stuck to my back. I think the idea was to try and release some muscle tension in my back that was messing up my nerves. It made me relaxed, but didn’t help my arms. Maybe it would be beneficial if the treatment was more localised.

Answer 4: Looks to me that this is the old (from the beginning of the century) electrotherapy. If it is it, I have tried it and it works. A generator sends weak high voltage frequencies and pulses to “sticky” pads that you stick onto your skin. Omron makes one called the “Elepuls”. It costs about US$60 in Japan. I experienced definite benefits. The electrotherapy has always been controversial, but within limits, it is not harmful. Don’t stick the pads on your head though.

Answer 5: I’ve had tens too. It doesn’t actually cure anything but just provides short term pain relief by effectively fooling your nerves into thinking about something other than your pain for a bit. I found it pretty helpful and if your RSI has got to the chronic, non curable stage, you may find it quite a boon as long as you don’t take advantage of the temporary relief and start overdoing things. Boots sell the machines – maybe they’d let you try one. If you are registered disabled, I think you can buy them ex-VAT too. You will however need advice on where to place the pads – for example, I had to place them on specific points around my spine in order to reduce forearm pain.

Answer 6: When I first got this RSI thing our Physio recommended we try out a TENS machine so hubby went and bought me one. If you get a doctor or your Physio to sign a form to say you are ‘chronically’ ill you can usually get a discount on the machines when buying one (chronically being defined as suffering for more than 3 or 6 months I seem to remember?). I find it great! I use it in the evenings just to relax the poor old arms down a bit when they’ve been giving me some jip so that I can get some sleep. Be careful when using it though as it tends to make you sleepy.

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