A menstrual TENS unit is a portable device that uses electrical impulses to relieve pain. It is a type of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine designed for period pain. It consists of electrode pads that deliver the currents through the skin. This method stimulates the sensory nerves to block pain signals and release natural painkillers. To use the device, place the electrodes on the abdominal area and adjust the pulse settings with a gradual increase.
Menstrual pain is common for many women. Some may experience it to a lesser or greater degree. It is characterised by dull, throbbing, or cramping sensations in the lower abdomen and may spread to the back. Thus, many seek various pain relief methods to manage the discomfort. One of the effective solutions is TENS therapy. This article will present the components of the device, how it works, and the general operating guidelines.
What is a Menstrual TENS Unit
A menstrual TENS unit is a small, battery-operated device that uses electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves. It consists of two or more electrodes attached to a handheld control unit and is usually strapped around the lower abdomen area. The control unit contains buttons or dials to adjust the frequency, intensity, and pulse duration.
Some models include several preset programs, such as massage modes or specific treatments for back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and abdominal cramps. Moreover, the electrode pads can be self-adhesive or require a conductive gel. They are applied directly to the affected area for direct stimulation. In addition, the electrodes come in different sizes and shapes, which are interchangeable to fit different body areas.
Aside from the traditional wired TENS device, some come with Bluetooth capability. It eliminates the need for lead cables and connects remotely to a smartphone app. This makes wireless TENS machines more lightweight and comfortable to use. Its compact design is also more discreet when worn under the clothes.
Advantages Over Other Relief Methods
- A TENS unit has adjustable frequency and intensity levels to suit different types and levels of pain.
- TENS therapy is a non-invasive method of pain relief. It provides localised relief through electrode placement to the pain region.
- It is 100% drug-free. A TENS unit does not involve medications, minimising the risks of systemic side effects.
- It helps to reduce medication dosages in some people.
- A TENS machine is cost-effective. The device can be used multiple times and can last for many years with proper maintenance.
- The device is portable and can be used anywhere whenever necessary.
How a Menstrual TENS Unit Works
The menstrual TENS unit generates low-voltage electrical currents and transmits them through the electrode pads. The currents stimulate the sensory nerves and interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain. This mechanism of action is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain, wherein external stimulation like small electrical shocks closes the “gate” in the spinal cord where the pain signals pass.
The second method in which TENS can help alleviate pain is using low-frequency stimulation to produce more endorphins. Endorphins are natural chemicals that inhibit nerve cells from processing pain messages. Thus, instead of pain, women feel a tingling sensation or a relaxing massage-like effect. The pulses also help relax tense muscles and increase blood flow to the affected area.
Women may control the dose or current intensities based on their pain level. For mild aches, low intensities may be sufficient. However, for more severe cramps, they may need to increase the pulse strength. Furthermore, low frequency can give cumulative and longer-lasting TENS effect.
Related Pain Conditions that the Device Can Treat
Aside from menstrual cramps, TENS therapy can help relieve various conditions. Firstly, it is beneficial for chronic pelvic pain from an underlying disorder. In particular, endometriosis pain tends to exacerbate during menstruation. Secondly, a TENS machine can help stimulate pelvic floor muscles to improve urinary incontinence.
Thirdly, TENS can help reduce pain in the lower back. It can help minimise muscle soreness and reduce swelling and inflammation. Moreover, it is beneficial for other types of chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia, and bursitis. Lastly, TENS units can help ease postoperative pain and pain from injuries.
How to Operate a Menstrual TENS Unit
Operating a menstrual TENS unit is simple and straightforward. Begin by connecting the electrode pads to the device, ensuring they are securely attached. Clean and dry the skin of the treatment area before putting the electrodes. Once in place, turn on the device and adjust the settings or select the desired treatment program.
It is advisable to start with a low intensity and increase gradually. The currents should feel strong but comfortable and not overpowering. Next, set the treatment session for 15 to 30 minutes. When finished, turn off the device and remove the electrodes from the skin. Individuals may use the TENS unit multiple times per day; however, give a 20-minute break between sessions.
Note that the duration of pain relief varies from person to person. Some may feel relief while using the device, and others may experience cumulative and longer-lasting TENS effects afterwards. Furthermore, it is vital not to exceed one hour per session to avoid skin irritation and muscle fatigue. If allergic reactions occur, discontinue the use of the device.
Pad Placement Guide for Safe and Effective Use
The ideal pad placement for menstrual cramps is at the lower abdomen or lower back. Position the electrodes below the navel and above the pubic region. The pads should be at least one inch apart to distribute the flow of the currents evenly. However, they should also not be too far apart as it may diminish its effectiveness.
For lower back pain, position the TENS pads on either side of the spine. Do not place the pads directly over the backbone or joints. Also, avoid electrode placement on broken or infected skin and open wounds. Other areas to avoid are the chest, throat, and head.
Menstrual TENS units are a safe and effective way to reduce period cramps and other discomforts. The device has a set of electrode pads that connect to a power generator. It sends low-voltage electrical currents to the skin to stimulate the nerves. This causes the interference of pain signals and the release of endorphins. Through these mechanisms, it helps relieve pain sensations without the aid of medicines. This method provides targeted pain relief with zero to minimal side effects.
TENS units have adjustable settings to modulate the pulses according to individual comfort levels or preferences. It is easy to operate by pressing the increase and decrease buttons to find the most satisfactory sensations. Conveniently, some devices have preset programs for efficient use. Moreover, it is essential to identify the right treatment area to achieve effective results. Individuals may get TENS machines for period cramps and other chronic conditions online, like iTENS Australia.