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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Electric Nerve Stimulator: Can It Help Improve the Quality of Life?

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Electric nerve stimulators have shown promising potential in improving the quality of life for individuals dealing with pain. The devices deliver controlled electrical impulses to targeted nerves, which can modulate pain signals. They offer relief to people who may not respond well to traditional pain management approaches. Electrical nerve stimulators are typically used in pain clinics. Fortunately, technological advances have enabled individuals to use portable electrical nerve stimulators in the comfort of their homes.

Living with pain can present significant challenges. It may result in sleep interruptions, mobility restrictions, and an overall negative impact on quality of life. Once enjoyable activities may now lead to discomfort and frustration. Pain can also have an impact on emotional well-being and mental health. Hence, individuals should take the initiative to seek treatment. This article will provide information about electrical nerve stimulators, including their mechanism of action and treatable conditions.

What is an Electric Nerve Stimulator?

An electric nerve stimulator is a device that can provide relief from acute pain or chronic pain conditions. It consists of a small power generator and adhesive electrode patches. The stimulator sends electrical impulses to the body for therapeutic purposes. It is typically battery-operated and portable, which users can apply to themselves. Hence, it does not need professional supervision to use the device.

These electronic devices have adjustable settings to control the pulse rate, width, and amplitude. This aids individuals in determining the appropriate level of electrical stimulation for their requirements. Moreover, modern electrical devices come with pre-set modes for convenient and effective use. This allows users to select a program for a specific treatment without having to adjust the settings manually.

Furthermore, they come in different styles and forms. A common variant is the standard, with a handheld push-button controller and wired electrode pads. The second one is wireless, often with a compact generator and pads directly attached to it. It can be operated manually or through a wireless controller or smartphone through a Bluetooth connection.

Importance in Pain Management

  • Electrical nerve stimulators alleviate pain by sending gentle electrical currents to sensory nerves, blocking pain signals and providing pain relief.
  • They offer a non-invasive alternative to traditional pain management methods, reducing the need for medications or invasive procedures.
  • By targeting specific nerves, these stimulators help improve muscle function and joint mobility.
  • Electrical nerve stimulators allow for personalised treatment plans, enabling healthcare providers to adjust the settings of electrical pulses.
  • They play a crucial role in minimising reliance on pain medications.
  • These devices may aid in the natural healing process by stimulating blood flow and promoting the release of endorphins.

Step-by-step-guide on how to operate the iTENS app

How an Electric Nerve Stimulator Works

Electric nerve stimulators send electric currents through electrode patches that people place on clean and dry skin. These currents produce two general responses from the body, particularly the central nervous system. The first method is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain. During treatment, the pain gate mechanism in the spinal cord closes. Therefore, it inhibits the transmission of pain messages to the brain.

The second mechanism involves the stimulation of endorphin production. Electrical nerve stimulators let the body produce more endorphins, natural pain relievers. Endorphins bind to opioid receptors and inhibit them from sending pain messages. They are also known as natural painkillers as they have similar effects to morphine.

Furthermore, they have a positive impact on the circulatory system. The electrical pulses or mild vibrations boost blood circulation in the affected area. This helps to reduce inflammation, relax the muscles, and promote faster recovery of damaged tissues and nerve regeneration. Overall, these mechanisms make electrical nerve stimulators a valuable tool in pain management.

Frequencies and Intensities

Frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz), signifies the rate at which an electrical nerve stimulator delivers pulses to the nerves. Physical therapists recommend lower frequencies for chronic pain and higher frequencies for acute pain. This adjustment directly impacts how nerves respond to stimulation, ultimately determining the effectiveness of the treatment.

Meanwhile, intensity pertains to the strength of the electrical pulses. It is a measure of the force with which the electrical current affects the nerve cells. Too low intensity may not produce the desired therapeutic effect, while excessively high intensity may lead to discomfort. Finding the optimal balance of intensity is crucial for effective treatment.

A shirtless man holding his nape and lower back

Types of Pain Relieved by an Electric Nerve Stimulator

An electric nerve stimulator can relieve neuropathic pain. It is caused by damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. This type of pain is often described as sharp, shooting, or burning. Also, it can be difficult to treat with traditional pain medication. Some neuropathic conditions include diabetic neuropathy, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, and phantom pain.

In addition, an electrical nerve stimulator can relieve musculoskeletal pain. This type of pain refers to discomfort that occurs in the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. It can manifest in various ways, including aching, stiffness, and sharp or dull pain, and may be localised to a specific area or widespread. Musculoskeletal pain conditions include joint pain, arthritis pain, and back pain.

Furthermore, the nerve stimulators can help alleviate visceral pain, which originates from the internal organs. This condition includes primary dysmenorrhea, labour pain, and endometriosis. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional on the fitness of using the machine for pain management. This is because electrotherapy may not be suitable for those with heart problems, epilepsy, cognitive impairment, implanted devices, and pregnant women.

Potential Side Effects

There are potential side effects associated with nerve stimulators, and these can vary from person to person. For instance, skin irritation. Some people may experience redness, itching, or a rash at the application site. The issue may arise from either the adhesive materials of the electrodes or a reaction to the electrical current.

Additionally, individuals may experience temporary muscle spasms in the treatment area. This can be uncomfortable but is usually not harmful. Adjusting the settings or repositioning the electrodes may help. Overall, it is essential to be aware of these potential side effects and consult a healthcare professional if any concerns arise.

Conclusion

An electric nerve stimulator is a portable device that helps alleviate pain by sending controlled electrical impulses through electrode patches. It operates on the Gate Control Theory of Pain, closing the pain gate in the spinal cord. It can also stimulate the production of endorphins, the natural pain relievers of the body. Additionally, it promotes better blood circulation, reducing inflammation and aiding in muscle relaxation for an overall positive impact on pain management.

The device can help alleviate various types of pain, including neuropathic, musculoskeletal, and visceral pain. It proves effective for different conditions, including diabetic neuropathy, back pain, and labour pain. However, users should be cautious, as potential side effects such as skin irritation and muscle spasms may occur. Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial. This is especially crucial for individuals with heart problems, epilepsy, cognitive impairment, implanted devices, or during pregnancy.

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