TENS Machine

by Dennis Bradford

in physical well-being

Should you invest in a home TENS machine?

Well, I’m a believer. It’s a good idea for every home to have one as a method for treating pain.

Perhaps because the F.D.A. only permits certain kinds of them to be sold in the United States, they are still relatively unknown in the U.S. They seem to be much better known in the U.K., Canada, and Australia.

TENS (T.E.N.S.) stands for ‘transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.’ A TENS machine operates on battery power. (Mine uses 2 AA batteries.) It delivers electrical stimulation between adhesive pads placed on the skin.

Like cold from ice bags or heat from heating pads or hot water bottles, a TENS machine can deliver effective, safe, drug free pain relief. Unlike them, it’s also portable.

How does it work?

If its pads are correctly placed, the mild electrical stimulation may block the nervous system from transmitting pain signals to the brain. As long as you are otherwise promoting healing in the injured area, this may itself relax the injured tissue and allow it to heal more quickly.

Furthermore, the electrical stimulation may actually increase endorphin production.

Biologically, pain’s purpose is to signal a problem. It would be foolish to block the signal without treating it cause. You wouldn’t try to run on a broken leg.

However, once you are treating its cause, blocking pain can itself speed healing.

It many cases, you may already understand what is causing pain: perhaps a sprain, a strain, arthritis, sciatica, migraine, menses, neck pain, or post-surgical pain. Often you are already treating it with rest or elevation or compression in addition to heat or cold.

A TENS machine is perfect for those situations.

Sometimes, the pain relief is almost immediate. Often, it just takes a day or two instead of several days.

Of course, it’s not a good idea to use a TENS machine if you have a heart pacemaker or a heart rhythm problem. It’s risky to use one if you are pregnant.

Nor is it a good idea to use one if you are operating or driving machinery. The reason for this is that using one can — depending upon the strength of the stimulation, the program used, and where the pads are placed – cause muscles to twitch.

Unless it is used by a licensed physician, it should also not be used for epileptics or children under 12.

If you have any concern at all about using one, consult your physician in advance.

However, for localized, ordinary pain relief, a TENS machine is seriously worth considering.

For many years in my 30’s, I played full-contact ice hockey. I simply could not have done that without an ice bag, a moist heat heating pad, over-the-counter pain relievers, and muscle relaxants. I wish I had known then about the benefits of a TENS machine!

Owning one is especially valuable for those occasions when it’s important not to miss an activity. For example, I always take mine on week-long Zen retreats. Having one might be especially important before, for example, a wedding, a reunion, a vacation, or when giving a speech.

These days, rather like treadmills, some of them come with multiple preset programs. Having a variety of programs from which to choose is a good idea. On the other hand, cost increases with the variety of programs.

Even one with a variety of programs does not cost a lot of money. Prices seem to range from about $50 to $100. It’s easy to check online for options.

I’m glad that I have mine! I’m grateful to my friend Anna in England for encouraging me to purchase one.

It’s certainly an option worth considering.

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