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How do tens machines work for chronic pain?

Tens machines work to relieve pain by blocking pain sensations transmitting to your brain and stimulating your body to release natural pain-relieving endorphins. The Tens unit is ideal for knee, elbow, ankle, arthritis, muscle, back, shoulder, neck, leg, abdomen pain, sciatica, period and endometriosis pain relief etc. They are a natural, drug-free and highly effective way to relieve pain with a muscle stimulation effect.

This is because of the increase in the blood circulation action that helps the lymph system wash off the toxins from the body. The sensations generated by the microcurrents and the conventional TENS treatments are like tingling rather than a small electric current’s uncomfortable and distressing feeling. Frequent and regular microcurrent sessions are required to get the best results. TENS machines are small and lightweight, so you can use them while working or on the move. You can put it in your pocket, clip it to your belt or hold it in your hand. You can use TENS throughout the day for as long as you like, although it should not be used while you’re driving, operating machinery, or in the bath or shower. 

However, these should not be tried unless you have got the go-ahead from your GP.

  1. My number one choice is this Easy At Home wireless tens machine. The wireless design allows users to move freely and make it discreet under clothing. With no wire and no remote control, the compact design makes it very easy and convenient to carry and use. Suitable for use not only at home or work. It has 6 Automated Massage Program Options and 20 Power Levels for Intensity. Only 2-Button to control, just turn on the unit by pressing the on/off button and adjust the intensity by pressing the on/off button and adjust the intensity by pressing “﹢” or “-”. A pair of Gel Electrode Pad is included. A rechargeable battery provides this professional unit with long-lasting power. £26.99
  2. Beurer EM49 PainFree Digital TENS and EMS Machine | Drug-free natural pain relief | 3-in-1 pain relief, rehabilitation and massage | 70 training programmes | 2 channels | 4 self-adhesive electrodes.
  • 70 PROGRAMMES: 64 expertly designed programmes and 6 customisable programmes, all with adjustable intensity.
  • SOOTHING EMS: With 20 pre-set EMS massage programmes to release tension, increase well-being and encourage relaxation throughout the body.
  • DOCTORS FUNCTION: Saves your preferred settings for a quick-start every time you switch it on.
  • Includeds: 1x EM49 TENS/EMS machine, 2x connection cable, 4x electrodes 45×45 mm, 1x belt clip, 3x batteries AAA, 1x instruction manual at around £64.28

3. EMS Tens Machine Muscle Stimulator Rechargeable Digital Therapy Full Body Acupuncture Massage Pain Management and Rehabilitation for Back Shoulder Leg and Muscle Pain Relief Treatment with 16 Modes.

  • The rechargeable and powerful TENS machines can stimulate the muscles and sensory nerves, activate specific natural pain gate mechanisms, relax your body, and have pain management anytime you feel the need.
  • 16 Preprogrammed Massage Modes – Tuina, acupuncture, shiatsu, rubbing, vibration, pinching, foot reflexology, and ear kneading options help diminish the sensation of physical pain like sciatica, arthritic or inflamed discs/joints, stiff shoulders, lower back pain, stepping, etc for relieving body stress and pain, to be healthier and energetic.
  • VARIABLE INTENSITY AND TIMER – 20 level of intensity allows you to fine-tune the pulse width and pulse rate which optimizes sensitive control to relax your particular pain; A pre-programmed timer can set a predetermined duration from 10 up to 60 mins
  • REUSABLE PADS & TEN HOURS USE – Premium hydrogels utilize multi-layer technology which gives good conduction, no need to use any gel together, reusable for 15-20 times when used properly; Up to 10 hours of continuous use per full charge with a USB cable
  • Easily adjustable settings animated display on the LCD screen. massage mode, intensity, and treatment time. Built-in timer from 10 to 90 minutes, default timer: 20 minutes. When time is due, it is automatically shut off. £24.90

To explain a little bit about the Tens Machine and the EMS unit read my post on it here.

The NHS explains in detail Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) which is a method of pain relief involving the use of a mild electrical current.

A TENS machine is a small, battery-operated device that has leads connected to sticky pads called electrodes.

You attach the pads directly to your skin. When the machine is switched on, small electrical impulses are delivered to the affected area of your body, which you feel as a tingling sensation.

The electrical impulses can reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain, which may help relieve pain and relax muscles. They may also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.

Healthcare professionals have reported that it seems to help some people, although how well it works depends on the individual and the condition being treated.

TENS is not a cure for pain and often only provides short-term relief while the TENS machine is being used.

However, the treatment is generally very safe and you may feel it’s worth trying instead of, or in addition to, the usual medical treatments, but like I stated at the beginning you should always check with your GP first before trying one out. A physiotherapist or pain specialist may be able to loan you a TENS machine for a short period if they think it could help.

TENS is not safe for everyone to use. Do not use it without first getting medical advice if:

  • you have a pacemaker or another type of electrical or metal implant in your body
  • you’re pregnant, or there’s a chance you might be pregnant – TENS may not be recommended early in pregnancy
  • you have epilepsy or a heart problem
  • you have an overactive bladder

Source: Amazon NHS

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Some fibromyalgia patients are now turning to acupressure to ease some of the symptoms of fibro. Acupressure is an ancient healing technique where physical pressure is put on certain points of the body. This pressure then boosts the blood circulation around the area and encourages the body to release endorphins which then help relieve some of your pain.

Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, pressure is applied with a finger, thumb or device to specific points on the body. Acupressure has been studied and found to be beneficial in people with cancer-related conditions, osteoarthritis pain, fibromyalgia, postoperative pain, and headaches.

I personally do find release with acupressure but unfortunately, find it difficult to reach some of the points to help with the release. However, I do use an acupressure mat which can also work like this (see below).

For best self-acupressure results, apply gentle yet firm pressure from your middle finger as you make tiny circular motions, while you are breathing deeply. This may be done as little as once a day or as much as once every hour. Speak to your GP before you embark on any acupressure on yourself or have your first treatment done by a professional who can then show you where to apply your pressure.

Magnet therapy (aka magnetic therapy) has also been used for centuries to relieve pain through the healing power of magnets. When placed on the skin (as close to the source of pain as possible), magnets not only improve peripheral blood circulation but also reduce inflammation. This can be really helpful in releasing some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The Chinese use magnets, as well as acupuncture, and say the difference is just that needles work faster, but that magnets applied correctly are just as effective for some complaints. You might wear a magnetic bracelet or other magnetized jewellery. It could be a bandage with a magnet in it, or you may wear a magnet as a shoe insole. You could also sleep on a special mattress pad with a magnet in it.

The thought behind magnetic field therapy is that certain problems happen because your magnetic fields are out of balance. If you put a magnetic field near your body, it is thought to stimulate the body’s ‘chi’ to promote healing. Apparently, Cleopatra is said to have worn a polished lodestone on her 3rd eye to maintain her beauty!

Although magnets became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, the medical profession was against the use of them, but since then, magnets and magnetic products have become more and more popular with an increase in scientific studies showing their effectiveness of them.

A company that deals in magnets Synergy For Life say that ‘Therapeutic magnets deliver results – quickly, quietly, and inexpensively. Our products may be used over and over again by every member of your family.’ They have magnetic applications for every joint and muscle, as well as magnetic sleep and seating systems. As we enter a new era in self-managed health care, “soft” medical alternatives are preferred over drugs and surgery. Biomagnetic and electro-medical therapies are among the fastest-growing “soft” modalities.

Acupressure mats are another way of pressure reaching the correct points. I have one I used regularly which was sent from EcoYoke Acupressure Mat & Pillow from Yoke Wellness. It was designed on the premise that ‘Self Care us Soul Care’ and is made of 100% biodegradable packaging. It has eco-friendly coconut fibre filling and the mat has 7000 ergonomic spikes for activating tension release and to help you unwind and release any body tension.

It’s a natural, drug-free and holistic self-care package that will not only ease your pain but have you feeling more charged up for the day. They suggest only 10 minutes a day is all it takes which is perfect for me to use when I go for my afternoon rest.

You can stand on it for energising power, sit on it during relaxation ( I am sitting on the pillow right now) or lie on it to feel a full-body release. You will then soon feel the muscle tension melt away and is a great product for headaches, stiff neck, back pain, fibromyalgia and insomnia. So, a real all-rounder.

It comes with a self-explanatory leaflet inside which makes you feel you are a very special person to receive this Eco Yoke Acupressure Mat & Pillow. It explains what to expect when you use your mat and how things change in seconds and then minutes into using it. It does exactly what it says on the leaflet and I was quite shocked when it does give a feeling of warmth after 1-3 minutes. It does say that bare skin is best but I was a bit apprehensive about that I am not saying I won’t try it that way in the future as I can tell this will be well used.

The Pure Calm YokeMat – Eco Acupressure Mat & Pillow Bundle is available from Yoke Wellness

Source: Synergy for Life Yoke Wellness, Web MD

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Does Acupuncture have a place in the theatre? Well, a recent article on the website Philly Voice says that “One new study suggests that giving patients acupuncture during total joint replacement procedures reduces their pain, leading to the need for fewer opioids for postoperative pain.”

The researchers found that 65% of study patients who received acupuncture during total knee replacement surgeries only needed a low dose of opioids – 15 oxycodone pills or less – for postoperative pain or none at all. By comparison, that was true of just 9% of knee replacement patients outside the study. 

Opioid use for pain management during and after surgical procedures is a known driver of opioid addiction and fatal overdoses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a record 93,000-plus overdose deaths last year — a 29% increase from 2019’s record-breaking death toll. Overdose deaths from opioids rose from 50,963 in 2019 to 69,710 in 2020.

Philadelphia recorded 1,214 overdose deaths in 2020, according to the Department of Public Health. That total, the second-highest in city history, was a 6% increase from 2019. Of the deaths, 86% involved an opioid such as heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl.

“Total knee replacements are one of the most common operative procedures in the United States and often very painful, so there’s a great need to explore non-opioid pain relief techniques for this type of surgery,” said Dr Stephanie Cheng, an anesthesiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and a professor of clinical anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine.

“Acupuncture is extremely safe and can help reduce pain with few unwanted side effects, but it has not been well researched as part of surgical anaesthesia.”

The Medical Express wrote that “Patients who have acupuncture during total knee replacement surgery report less pain and need far fewer opioids to manage their discomfort, according to a study being presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2021 annual meeting. Results of the study showed that 65% of patients who received acupuncture during surgery achieved a low-dose or opioid-free postoperative experience, compared to 9% of patients outside of the study.”

2.3 million acupuncture treatments are carried out each year, traditional acupuncture is one of the most popular complementary therapies practised in the UK today. Yet statistics show that 1 in 5 of us would only consider acupuncture for sleep as a last resort. Almost a quarter of people admit they didn’t realise acupuncture could benefit them despite its widely recognised health benefits. It is also now available on the NHS.

Traditional acupuncture is a natural system of healing that has been practised for over 2,500 years. It is a safe and effective treatment that involves inserting sterile needles, no bigger than human hair, painlessly at specific points on the body.

Also, check out these 8 Benefits of Acupuncture for Pain Relief.

Source: Philly Voice The Medical Express Back Pain Blog