A TENS Unit for Fibromyalgia Pain

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What is TENS?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy sometimes used to treat localized or regional pain. During TENS therapy, electrodes deliver electrical impulses to nearby nerve pathways which can help control or relieve some types of pain.

TENS is often used to treat osteoarthritis, chronic pain and postoperative pain. A personal TENS unit is a pocket-sized device with a couple of cables that attach to electrodes. You stick the electrodes around where you’ve got pain, and the device sends a little electricity through the area.

TENS may be effective for reducing pain in people who have fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points’ places on the body where slight pressure causes pain. The pain of fibromyalgia isn’t limited to a specific area, so TENS therapy isn’t generally used as a treatment.

But some research has shown that TENS may be effective for reducing pain in people who have fibromyalgia, especially in combination with other treatments, such as exercise. TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation provides non-invasive, drug-free pain relief.

 

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Pads are placed on the back, near the area of pain. TENS uses soothing pulses that are sent via the pads through the skin and along the nerve fibers. The pulses suppress pain signals to the brain and encourage the body to produce higher levels of its own natural pain killing chemicals – endorphins and encephalins.

TENS is generally considered a very safe treatment.

TENS is also believed to get your brain to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Pain leads to tension, which leads to more pain, which leads to more tension, etc. Breaking that cycle can give your muscles the relief that can be so hard to come by, and TENS may help break that cycle.

TENS is generally considered a very safe treatment. As long as the strength of the electricity isn’t set too high, it isn’t painful. It won’t interact with medications or other treatments. It won’t make you loopy like pain drugs can, and it rarely causes unwanted side effects.

With a personal unit, you can use it when you need it the most and without having to make an appointment or leave the house. A small percentage of people in the general population can’t tolerate TENS. We don’t know whether that number is higher in fibromites, but with how sensitive we are, it stands to reason. However, it doesn’t take long to determine whether you like the feeling or not. The first few tingles will probably let you know.

Where Can You Get One?

It’s best to consult a doctor before trying any sort of physical therapy. They may be able to give you advice on whether or not TENS therapy would be effective for you. In addition, many physical therapists and pain clinics will have one on location and you’ll be able to try it yourself and make your own decision. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, there are plenty of places online where you can buy a TENS machine. Many cost less than $100. It’s best to make sure you’re getting a good one, but simply because one is more expensive doesn’t mean that it is better. Carefully read reviews on any unit before buying. They come in a variety of sizes, but almost all are battery powered and portable. The advantage of a smaller unit is that many can be clipped directly onto a belt. That means you can attach the pads to your skin under your clothes and use the machine throughout the day. Because the relief provided by TENS therapy is temporary, being able to turn the machine on regularly is a big advantage when it comes to treating your pain.

Best tens machines for fibromyalgia

Pure Enrichment PurePulse Pro TENS Machine

The Pure Enrichment PurePulse Pro gives a medical-grade pain management and is the most used TENS machine that I have ever stumbled upon. I have never used this TENS machine at an intensity level of over 17-18 and this one is really good for those gentle pulsations at the beginning of every rehab. And if you are not using it at the comfort of a Physical Therapist, it comes with a video series that demonstrates its different ways of treating pain in all of the areas of the body. Disclaimer: I have not seen these videos but I bet they are of quality! Also comes with 2-year warranty.

Tens Units by NURSAL

This small, lightweight, compact, and portable TENS device comes with eight reusable electrodes that are contoured to suit any body part. It features twelve high-frequency stimulation and twenty intensity levels that work for all muscle groups. The device is user-friendly and has an easy-to-read animated LCD screen with a pause button.

Gold TechCare Mini Massager TENS Machine

This one is a really interesting option, but should be bought with caution. It is the size of an ipod and as simple as it gets. It has 2 electrode patches that can be switched out. It also has a rechargeable battery with duration of about 10 hours.

The screen is pretty small and the strength is not as high as some of the other ones (In other words pretty weak, but as a person with sciatica or fibromyalgia, you will not need a stronger one). It comes with a lifetime warranty and a 30 days’ money back guarantee.

Always remember that what works for some of us doesn’t work for all of us. It’s best to approach each treatment with cautious optimism. If a TENS doesn’t seem to be right for you, don’t stick with it just because it worked for someone else.

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Reference

  • Carbonario F, Matsutani LA, Yuan SL, Margues AP. Effectiveness of high-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation at tender points as adjuvant therapy for patients with fibromyalgia. European journal of physical and rehabilitation medicine. 2013 Apr;49(2):197-204.
  • Dailey DL, Rakel BA, Vance CG, et al. Transcutaneous electrical never stimulation reduce pain, fatigue and hyperalgesia while restoring central inhibition in primary fibromyalgia.Pain. 2013 Nov;154(11):2554-62.
  • Lofgren M, Norrbrink C. Pain relief in women with fibromyalgia: a cross-over study of uperficial warmth stimulation and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Journal of rehabilitation medicine. 2009 Jun;41(7):557-62.
  • Mutlu B, Parker N, BugdayciD, Tekdos D, Kesiktas N. Efficacy of supervised exercise combined with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in women with fibromyalgia: a prospective controlled study. Rheumatology international. 2013 Mar;33(3):649-55.
  • Nijs J, Meeus M, Van Oosterwijck J, et al. Treatment of central sensitization in patients with ‘unexplained’ chronic pain: what options do we have? Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy. 2011 May;12(7):1087-98.

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