TENS machine – works for me!

February 7, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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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!



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  1. that is really cool! I want one! Are there any negative effects? Maybe it would help with my foot cramps and neck pain…
    I’m gonna go see how much they are on amazon

  2. Well check out the safety info on line first but I THINK (don’t quote me on this! ;o) ) that unless you have heart problems, a pace maker or are pregnant, and provided you use it properly, there are no negative effects. Just don’t turn it up higher than you need! Some of them only run for 15 mins at a time and tell you not to use them for longer than that. According to my physio – who probably wouldn’t want to be quoted on that either … that’s just silly and you need to run them for a couple of hours at least, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Don’t know if you can use it for feet (’cause I’m not sure where you’d put the pads!) but I put it either side of the neck (you’re not supposed to put the pads directly on the neck, I think) and find it really helpful. (Having said all that, I’m stiff as a bored this morning … grr…)

  3. So those work for joints too? I used one a couple years ago when I screwed up my shoulder muscle. And I really liked it too- I’m not suer how they work either but it did a good job of helping me relax. Maybe I should buy one of those for my coworkers…:)

  4. I think they basically work on pain, so joint or muscle doesn’t matter. There’s an article here (http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab004377.html) (too tired to put it nicely into a link in HTML) about using them for RA specifically.

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