For dramatic muscle relaxation, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) works, let me tell you. The little USB-powered digital box with its easy-to-read display comes with leads (thin wires) that connect to pads which stick to skin.
Hook everything up, placing the electrode pads over target body spots, and power on the TENS unit. Select a mode, set the timer, adjust the intensity, and settle in for a shocking experience that literally forces the treatment area to relax, as the adhesive electrode pads deliver repetitive and rhythmic, massaging, low-voltage electric currents that produce a tingling sensation to reduce the feeling of pain.
I heard about TENS therapy only recently from my good friend Darryl who has been challenged by surviving a severe car wreck (a drunk driver vaulted her car into his parked car while he was sitting in it, smashing it – and him – into the parked car in front of his and rolling it over like a billiard ball) that left him with seven pins holding his spine together where the vertebrae were crushed.
After the accident, Darryl’s doctors told him to expect a lifetime of arthritis pain that will get worse as he gets older – up until now, that is. A new physician recommended applying ice to relieve muscle tension. He said to get some small wax paper cups, fill them with water, and freeze them to make mini-ice blocks. For back pain, lie on your stomach and have someone apply the ice to tense areas while you relax and breathe deeply.
That savvy physician also said many of his patients had reported good results after getting a TENS unit. He said you don’t need to buy an expensive model, that there are perfectly good devices available for under $50.
It just so happens that Darryl, after reviewing the current literature on TENS units, selected and purchased the #2 product as rated by The Good Body:
TechCare Plus 24
As soon as it arrived, we took turns trying out the wee gadget.
Both of us experienced remarkable effects from the first use. The TENS unit pulses electricity that travels through the nerve fibers. Positioned at the site of pain, the electric signals prevent the brain’s pain receptors from transmitting. The result? No – or less – pain.
Darryl said that, for the first time since his accident on the last day of August 2015, he “felt normal” with no pain at all. Such a blessing!
The TechCare Plus24 TENS unit comes with everything you need to start enjoying the benefits of electrical muscle stimulation, including two electrode leads for a total of four pads operational at the same time. Sessions are typically 20-30 minutes but I have been known to move the electrodes and start the “ride” over again a time or two.
Healthcare providers recommend overnight therapy for some cases.
The electric impulses shoot down through the skin and zap muscles and nerves underneath. This generates an involuntary muscle reaction, although it may take a while before this effect becomes noticeable. I found a place on my shoulders that the electrical stimulation physically lifts upward, as if a person were pinching and massaging my bundled muscles.
Not everyone may find pain relief or any other health benefit from using a TENS unit. Individual results vary.
The electrodes work better on clean, shaved skin. A special gel to coat the electrodes for more electrical conductivity is available, as are replacement pads (large and small).
Please note that there are some important safety measures to follow when using a TENS unit.
- When the unit is switched on, never touch two or more electrodes together. They can spark and even burn.
- Never place the TENS electrodes over:
- The neck
- The major arteries in your neck
- The mouth
- The heart
- The heart area across the chest
- On the chest
- The head
- Across the head
- Over swollen, infected, or inflamed areas or skin eruptions (phlebitis, thrombophlebitis, varicose veins)
- Over or near cancerous lesions
- Never use the TENS unit for muscle stimulation while it is charging through its USB cable.
- Be advised that the long-term effects of chronic electrical stimulation are unknown. Severe muscle spasms may occur and the contractions may be strong enough to close the airway or cause difficulty in breathing.
- If you like what a TENS unit does for you, sessions might become habit-forming. Don’t overdo. When you first start out, take 30-60 minute breaks between sessions and listen to your body, as well. Prudence dictates proceeding with caution where anything electrical is applied to your body’s central nervous system.
Use TENS therapy to reduce either chronic (long-lasting) or acute (short-term) pain. TENS therapy has been given positive user feedback for easing:
- Osteoporosis-related joint, bone, or muscle problems
- Fibromyalgia-related joint, bone, or muscle problems
- Tendinitis (muscle tissue inflammation)
- Low back pain
- Diabetic nerve pain
- Fibromyalgia pain
- Bursitis (inflammation of the fluid-filled pads that cushion the joints)
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Labor pain
- Cancer pain
Other types of TENS units are being sold as wearables. Some are powered by batteries. Such devices can be strapped to a leg, the back, a shoulder or knee, or another body part. Some of them conceal cleverly beneath your clothing so you can relax during that long-winded company meeting.
Why suffer when affordable relief is close at hand? On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is the most effective pain relief, Darryl and I both rate TENS a 10!