In late 2012, I underwent major spinal surgery. The operation was a success and proved very beneficial, but recovery was long and difficult. Pain medication knocked me around. It took the better part of a year before I was completely pain-free. At one stage, it looked as if I might be living with some degree of this pain for the rest of my life. Luckily, that was not to be. But one of the things that helped me during that time was a TENS Machine.
So what is a TENS Machine, and how does it work?
A TENS machine (which stands for “transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation” machine, in case you were wondering) is a small battery-operated pain relief device. It’s really easy to use, anytime or anywhere.
It works by sending tiny electric impulses across your skin to the underlying nerves, through adhesive electrode pads placed over the affected area. This blocks or reduces your pain by interrupting pain signals. Safe, non-invasive and drug-free, the machine is controlled with a switch to increase or decrease the strength of the electrical current. It is designed to give you back control over your pain, whether acute or chronic, and thus reduce tension.
There are accessible versions of these controls and pads for those with limited movement.
What is it used for, and who might benefit?
TENS machines are popular for managing post-operative, period and labour pains. But its uses and potential benefits extend far beyond that. It can help manage cancer and scar tissue pain, neuropathy, migraines, pulled muscles, back and neck injuries, arthritis and joint pain, and a reduction in symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
It can be especially helpful for people who have endometriosis, diabetes, sports injuries, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia or spinal cord injuries - as well as those who find it difficult to take pain medication for any reason.
What is it like to use one?
There are different types of TENS machines, depending on your needs and budget, so you need to find the one that works best for you.
The experience differs from person to person and depends on your situation. You’ll usually feel a slight buzzing or tingling sensation in the affected area, which can dull or distract you from the pain. It should not be painful but may cause some skin irritation or redness after use.
Speaking to a friend who has disability and chronic pain for this article, she has found the TENS machine somewhat helpful during injuries or pain flare-ups. However, she emphasised that they may not be suitable for everyone or may need to be used in combination with other pain management methods.
Are there any potential side effects?
Most people can use a TENS machine safely, and relatively few will experience side effects. However, this is a medical device, and it is best to speak to your doctor before trying out TENS to manage your pain.
Just how effective is it overall?
Overall, the scientific effectiveness of TENS is still unknown - but many people have experienced some benefits. It’s certainly no cure. Still, take it from me that it might be worth a go.
If you think a TENS machine might be something you need, give it a try! I hope it works for you.
Shop Averee’s wide range of TENS machines now.
Emily Dash is an emerging writer, actor, producer and speaker. She has a wide range of credits across theatre and screen.