One of the most popular drug-free techniques to control pain is the use of a TENS machine. TENS can be purchased without a prescription and safe and user-friendly. There is a wide range of machines available for home use ranging from a clear-cut device for pain at around $20 to more than $300 for a dual channel machine that also includes muscle stimulation features.
How Does a TENS Machine Work?
Electrodes are placed on the skin and the nerves stimulated by a small electrical pulse. At a high pulse rate, this has the effect of blocking the impulses that transmit pain messages to the brain. Also, a low pulse rate can be used which triggers the production of the body’s pain stifling hormones, endorphins. The handheld TENS unit is used to control the strength of the impulses, the pulse rate and the time the stimulation is applied. It is typically advised that the unit is used for twenty minutes to thirty minutes during which time the electrical impulses obstruct the pain. Pain relief, however, continues after switching off the unit due to the production of endorphins.
What Type of Pain Does a TENS Machine Block?
The best use of these machines is for the relief of chronic pain from joints, muscles or nerves and is not advised for pain from other conditions such as appendicitis, hepatitis, etc. For people with chronic pain that require strong drugs for alleviation, TENS can be very effective and is an outstanding alternative to increasing the level of painkillers needed.
Can You Use TENS during Labor?
TENS is becoming more and more popular as a nondrug way to help control labor pain. The electrodes are placed on the back and the strength regulated by the woman in labor. As the degree of pain during labor increases, the strength of the stimulation can be increased accordingly giving her complete control. During labor, the machine is usually used in two ways. During a contraction, a high pulse rate is used to block the pain, and between contractions, a lower pulse rate is used to stimulate endorphin production which often helps to lower the pain of contractions. TENS can be used right from the beginning of labor before the pain has increased to stimulate endorphin production. It is more effective than waiting until labor is more advanced. One caution we ought to mention here is that the use of TENS machines before the 37th week of pregnancy has not been proven to be safe for the developing fetus so should not be used.
How safe is TENS?
Using a TENS machine is safely offered you follow the safety guidelines. You should not use this method if you have epilepsy or have a heart pacemaker as the electrical stimulation can interfere with it. If you have pain, then you should always check with a doctor to diagnose the cause before you use TENS. It should not be used for pain from root medical conditions such as appendicitis or for anyone who has heart problems unless recommended by your doctor.