Tags: endorphins, immune system, nerves stimulation, pain, pain blocker, pain receptor, pain relief, RA, Rheumatoid arthritis, TENS, TENS machine
My physio suggested recently that I try a TENS machine – and handily enough I’d sort of inherited one and had it sitting in a cupboard at home, but hadn’t thought to use it for ages. TENS is transcutanious electronic nerve stimulation, delivering very mild electronic stimulae through the skin. It works, to put it simply because I don’t actually understand the non-simple explanations, by blocking the pain receptors somehow, so presumably the brain doesn’t know you’re hurting. Like aspirin, it’s blocking the pain but not curing it. However, unlike aspirin it’s actually causing the body (somehow – something else I don’t understand) to create endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers (among other things). Apparently, according to some, several sessions can relieve chronic pain altogether … according to other studies (which I’m not referencing because I’m tired and I’ve had a long day, but if anyone asks I’ll find ‘em!) it doesn’t work at all. I suppose it depends on the individual – from my point of view, what matters right now is that it works for me, and it’s working right now!
I’ve used it both on my shoulders/neck and my elbows, and I have seen an improvement over the last couple of weeks in both. Mind you, since my flare there’s been a general improvement anyway, and of course I’m also having neck manipulation and ultrasound through physio, but I DO notice almost immediate relief when I start using the TENS now, so I reckon something’s going on, and it’s a good something.
It’s important to remember, as a scientist, that it’s blocking the pain but NOT relieving the underlying condition i.e. it’s not doing anything to stop my immune system from attacking itself. Important to remember as a scientist – perhaps important to try and forget as a patient!