TENs Machine Experiences

Question: Please can anyone who has used a TENS machine share some of their experience? eg:

  • which electrode points do you use for what kinds/locations of pain?
  • for how long after a treatment does the effect last?
  • is it cumulative after repeated treatments, or does each treament-plus-effect stand alone?
  • how often, and at what time intervals, do you use it? Is there a recommended safety limit?
  • what else should I have asked??

Answer 1: I’ve had one of these babies for about 15yrs – a customer in medical supplies owed a few favours. I was told that in theory the current ‘disrupts’ the pain messages to the brain. A secondary effect is supposed to be the stimulation of endorphin (the body’s own opiates!). Use of electrical current for medicine has been around for about a century! My second cousin recently retired as a physio was still using mahogany boxes with lots of brass bits gave a sort of tried and tested feel to treatment!!! He used current to increase blood flow and retain muscle bulk without the strain of moving damaged joints (the ‘get fit without moving’ devices on sale now do a similar job for muscle bulk but are low powered) The one that I use is a four electrode job and is quite good for ‘trauma’ pain – four electrodes on nearly full give a night’s sleep after dislocating a knee when DFs taken like smarties wouldn’t. I am allergic to the hypoallergenic gels supplied so have to use wet pads stuck on with micropore – it works so who cares! – Just use whatever works for you.

For ‘heavy duty’ pain alkaline batteries seem to work better than rechargeable and I do find that the relief increases with use (endorphin production – I was told). I don’t know of any advised safety limits but was ‘hooked up’ once for about two weeks – without any visible ill effects – or none that anyone dared to mention anyway. When I had mine it was supplied with a lot of charts with application points etc. but when looked at simply (how else could I do it!) they worked out to – the current travels (in theory) in a straight line so put the ‘+’ on one end, the bit that you want to treat in the middle, and the ‘-‘ at the other end. I have not used mine for Teno as the level of pain is my way of controlling my use.

I don’t know if it’s possible with the new ones but with mine if you put the electrodes on either end of a muscle and turn on full, the muscle tightens up solid – quite a weird sensation – not much use for anything but! If you haven’t got instructions demand some – mine (early days but) had dire warnings about hearts and pacemakers (positioning the electrodes near to them) – just put in that bit to cheer you up.  Have fun if it works for RSI let me know, especially if you still get the warning pains – you probably know what I mean.

Answer 2: I used a TENS machine during both of my labours and found it very very good if rather irritating (I tried turning it off at one point – *that’s* when I realised how effective it was!). As has been explained, the theory is that the pain signals are interfered with before they reach the brain. There is not meant to be any lasting effect, although what someone said about endorphins may be true. However, in cases where ongoing pain has triggered a lot of subsequent muscle tension, it seems to me that by allowing some periods of no pain or reduced pain, there may be some alleviation of the muscular tension. I guess the usual warnings about masking pain increasing the risk of overdoing it apply.

I bought my mother (at her request) a TENS machine for Christmas – approximately 50 pounds from Boots. There was a magazine survey that picked this one out as best value for money. I don’t know what level of testing they did but it isn’t likely to have been *that* strenuous (it was a women’s mag, can’t remember which) and I don’t know how robust the outer case is though it seems OK. Unfortunately my mum hasn’t tried it out much yet – she has bad arthritis in the neck and it is therefore very difficult for her to position the electrodes herself. I have heard one other person give TENS a strong testimony though. She has various painful injuries resulting from a car crash, and she finds TENS helps everything except her neck pain – but only while she is actually using it.

There is also a new machine out that works on the same principle as TENS but uses new technology and is meant to be much more effective (and more expensive). I can’t for the life of me think what it is called though – better I hadn’t mentioned it huh? I’ll do a bit of surfing and see if I can find out. I hope this is useful.

Answer 3: I have used a TENS machine for many years and I find it really does help with the pain – especially at night if I’ve done gardening when I shouldn’t!


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