Managing chronic pain is a difficult task. There are a number of medications that can provide relief for conditions like fibromyalga and neuropathy such as lyrica, gabapentin and nortriptyline. However medications often cause unwanted side effects and might not fully relieve symptoms. I struggled for months trying to find a good option for controlling the constant nerve pain in my foot after surgery. I was on gabapentin for awhile but that increased my blood sugar which worried me since diabetes runs in my family. I then tried nortriptyline which helped but didn’t fully get rid of the pain and made me feel like a zombie due to it’s sedating effect. Painkillers like percocet only helped slightly but after 6 months I was told I could no longer use painkillers to manage my pain.
After several failed attempts to get my health insurance company to pay for a topical cream that was supposed to help with the pain I decided it was time to look into alternatives to the options I was being given. I had a friend who used a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to help with her neck pain after acervical fusion. After doing some research on using TENS for nerve pain I asked her to borrow it to see if it would help me. There is clinical research supporting the use of TENS for pain management (for postoperative pain, neuropathy and fibromyalgia) however it is still seen as somewhat controversial and some doctors still consider it an experimental treatment.
So what is a TENS unit and how does it help relieve pain? A TENS unit is a battery powered device with two or four electrodes that are place on the skin and send an electrical current from the electrodes to your skin. Exactly why this helps with pain is not fully understood. Research in animals shows that TENS usage increases neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin. These two neurotransmitters areendorphins which act as natural pain killers.
After testing out the TENS unit I borrowed I noticed it did seem to help my pain even if it didn’t completely get rid of it. And what I really love about my TENS unit is it’s small enough that I can keep it in my pocket and use with no one even noticing. If you haven’t looked into trying TENS for pain management I highly suggest it. It is unlikely to replace the need for medications but can be an effective addition to other therapies to help make make chronic pain more manageable.
I like that it is small enough to fit in my pocket but very strong and the battery lasts all day. However if size isn’t that important to you then you can get larger TENS units for cheaper.