Author Topic: TENS and EMS machines  (Read 690 times)

Offline Kiwi

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TENS and EMS machines
« on: December 21, 2021, 05:03:52 PM »
TENS = Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
EMS = Electrical (or Electronic) Muscle Stimulation

Have any of you had experiences with these gizmos?

I had a prostatectomy in May 2020 and while the surgeons got rid of 100% of the cancer, I was one of the unlucky 4% who had complications due to scar tissue on my innards. The result is a lot of pain.

The head surgeon did everything he could, but with only a small temporary improvement, and now my doctor is talking of putting me on more powerful painkillers than combinations of paracetamol and aspirin, but even just those two can mess with my brain. Tramadol kills the pain for an hour or two and makes me rather cruisy at times, but I'm very wary of getting hooked on opioids as I apparently have an addictive personality. Chocolate, alcohol and even lots of loving can easily sink their claws into me.

The pain is nowhere near as severe as the migraines I had for over 20 years and was eventually fixed by "fringe healers," especially New Zealand-trained osteopaths. It comes on when I'm standing and walking, and has the wonderful effect of going away after only 6 to 10 minutes of lying on my back. But there's not much I can accomplish on my back, such as lawnmowing, hedge-cutting, gardening, hiking, housework, partying, and taking photos.

The worst part is that the pain makes me depressed. It probably robs me of endorphins, and it's hard to discipline myself to get going or keep going when that happens.

I've heard about TENS/EMS "machines" helping such things - raising endorphin levels, helping with the pain of endometritis and endometriosis, and fixing cramps. Have any of you had experiences with them - either good or bad? Got any advice? Please feel free to PM or email me if you don't want to discuss it publicly.

I bought a real cheapie online which should arrive this week. Its cost was only NZ$25.90 with freight and six more pads, so I don't expect much but can easily afford to lose that sum if it doesn't help. That's only half of what many doctors want for a consultation.

The TENS/EMS models that come up shining in test reports cost anything from about NZ$120 to NZ$380, so if the cheapie helps it might or might not make sense to buy a better one. :-)

I don't yet know what specifications are the most beneficial, so would also appreciate any help regarding those. Long ago I grew tired of the inconvenience of rechargeable appliances, so definitely prefer ones that run on standard AA or AAA batteries.

« Last Edit: December 21, 2021, 05:20:45 PM by Kiwi »
Don't criticize what you can't understand. — Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (1963)
Some people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices and superstitions. — Edward R. Murrow (1908–65)

Offline molesworth

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Re: TENS and EMS machines
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2021, 11:23:56 AM »
I've had a bad back for years (hang gliding accident, but that's another story) and occasionally go through periods of quite severe pain in my back and leg due to a trapped nerve.  A colleague who also has some pain problems recommended a TENS machine, so I got one (medium priced, about £40/NZ$80) and was amazed at how much relief it gave me.  I don't know how much is real effect and how much is psychosomatic, but it definitely does help when I need it.

I probably should have consulted my doctor about whether it does really help, but since they've never been able to offer much apart from pain killers and physio which only helped very slightly, I thought it worth a go.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens/
Quote
There's not enough good-quality scientific evidence to say for sure whether TENS is a reliable method of pain relief. More research is needed and clinical trials are ongoing.

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.
Days spent at sea are not deducted from one's allotted span - Phoenician proverb

Offline Kiwi

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Re: TENS and EMS machines
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2021, 05:45:52 AM »
Thanks Molesworth -- it's good to hear about someone having good results. TENS is something I've not heard much about, but have heard more positive comments than negative.

I think the last sentence in your quote above is likely to be very true. I've had ME/CFS since 1989 and that is very true for it. What helps/hurts one person who has it may not help/hurt another person, although there are a few generalities which apply to most people. It's the specifics that vary. One thing that helped me a greatly was, and still is, sunshine. I used to sunbathe up to four hours in summer and that would give me two days of near-normal energy and just require a daily 30-60 minute top-up to keep it going.

My TENS machine arrived yesterday (Christmas Eve) and I tried it about 9pm then on three other occasions since. I waited till the pain got right up to painkiller level and the machine got rid of the pain faster than they would kick in and quicker than the six to 10 minutes that lying down would work. As the your link says, TENS can block the pain impulses from getting to the brain.

This morning the pain took about twice as long as usual to arrive, and I was deliberately being a little more active than usual. It's back now, but quite tolerable while I'm sitting at the 'puter.

The best part is that the last 24 hours I have not been depressed at all. The usual me is back and I've missed him!  And Christmas has nothing to do with it because I usually don't celebrate it with other family members until a few days later. So I think the machine might have indeed raised my endorphins.

A little more research since first posting has shown that for some pain a 2-channel TENS machine can be better than my single-channel one because you can set the four pads in an X figure surrounding the sore spot to get a better result. If I upgrade I would also go for a TENS and EMS machine because Oldfartitis (72) as usual causes a few muscle aches.

The lower abdomen has more tender skin than other areas so it's hard for me to get a comfortable but strong setting. That's no problem at all on my foot that sometimes cramps, or on my lower back which has been a little sore lately.  In fact when I switched it on, the machine instantly told me I had placed one pad over an out-of-place vertebrae, so a bit later I popped it back.

Perhaps a little perspective about pain is important. I think that through advertising, many people might believe that pain is BAD and ya gotta fix it with painkillers.

Bullshit! Pain is GOOD! It tells you to take your hand out of the flames before you do some damage and stop banging your head against that brick wall and stop pushing that drawing pin into your thumb before you do some damage. I.e: Pain tells you something is wrong so you must fix it, if possible, not just numb the pain. The big difference is when we have pain that is caused by some condition that isn't easily fixed.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2021, 06:00:10 AM by Kiwi »
Don't criticize what you can't understand. — Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (1963)
Some people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices and superstitions. — Edward R. Murrow (1908–65)

Offline molesworth

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Re: TENS and EMS machines
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2021, 12:54:01 PM »
That's brilliant news Kiwi.  Anything that helps is worth pursuing, and it sounds like you're feeling improvements already, with just the first uses.  And as well as relieving the pain it's having other positive effects.

Have a good Christmas and New Year, and here's to more improvements for you in 2022.
Days spent at sea are not deducted from one's allotted span - Phoenician proverb