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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Pain Stimulator Machine: Types, How It Works, And The Treatable Conditions

A small wing iTENS electrode and information about iTENS

Chronic pain conditions can be challenging to manage effectively. Fortunately, there are several types of pain stimulator machines available to provide relief. These include Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units, Inferential Currents (IFC) machines, and Spinal Cord Stimulators (SCS). They use electrical pulses to trigger the pain gate mechanism and endorphin release. They are also effective in chronic and acute pain conditions, such as labour pain, body aches, arthritis pain, and fibromyalgia.

Many people undergo physical therapy and take pain medicines to alleviate their aches from their ailments and help with recovery. However, their effects can vary depending on the person. This is why it is ideal to have multiple options for pain management. Electrotherapy is one of these options that can provide convenient relief. This article will present information on electrical stimulation units for pain, how they work, and the treatable conditions.

Types of Pain Stimulator Machines

Several types of pain stimulator machines can help individuals with various conditions. Firstly, TENS units are ideal for people seeking convenient and versatile pain relief. They are small, battery-operated devices that use externally applied electrode pads. They also have adjustable settings and features, such as preset modes, which can enhance the experience of using TENS.

Secondly, IFC machines are another non-invasive option for people experiencing aches from injuries and chronic pain conditions. These use higher frequencies than TENS to penetrate the tissues and use electrical pulses to stimulate the muscles. Hence, these sessions are also shorter in comparison. This therapy focuses more on helping with the rehabilitation of injuries.

Lastly, SCS are implanted devices that deliver electrical stimulation directly to the spinal column. It has three components: a pulse generator, lead wires, and a remote control. However, an individual must undergo several medical assessments and a trial period before they can undergo surgery. Moreover, there are higher risks due to the invasive nature of surgery.

A Closer Look at TENS

  • TENS therapy is a popular method of electric stimulation for pain relief.
  • It is commonly incorporated in treatment or rehabilitation plans because it is an effective supplement to other treatments.
  • It also provides a drug-free form of pain relief, which can help people reduce their intake of pain medicines.
  • TENS units are available to purchase online or in pharmacies without prescriptions.
  • They are easy to self-administer for convenient reduction of pain.
  • Advanced units often have multiple preset modes tailored for different body parts and medical conditions.
  • TENS units typically have a frequency range of 0-150 Hz and an intensity range of 0-80 mA.

An elderly woman adjusting the settings on the iTENS electrode on her wrist

How Does a Pain Stimulator Machine Work?

A pain stimulator machine works by sending electrical currents to the target areas, which can trigger various mechanisms for alleviating pain. In particular, TENS machines allow users to customise their treatment by altering the frequency and intensity levels according to their comfort level. The electrode patches send the electric currents to the skin and into the sensory nerves.

High frequencies can trigger the spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This process is called the pain gate mechanism, suggested in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. Moreover, it can induce vasodilation, increasing blood circulation. Consequently, this helps in healing injuries since new blood brings nutrients and oxygen crucial to the process.

Meanwhile, low frequencies trigger the production of endogenous opioids. These are natural painkilling hormones that bind to opioid receptors, resulting in an overall reduction of pain intensity. In addition, endorphins can also reduce stress and improve moods, promoting a sense of well-being. It can also help with reducing inflammation.

Benefits

There are several benefits to using electrical stimulation as a method of pain relief. Firstly, it helps people reduce or replace their intake of medications. This allows them to avoid dependency issues and some of the long-term effects, such as liver and kidney diseases. Secondly, TENS units are portable. This allows individuals to use them whenever needed in various settings.

Thirdly, they can increase the quality of life compared to before by providing natural pain relief and improving the range of motion. This enables people to return to some normal activities. Lastly, they are cost-effective investments, especially for chronic pain management.

A shirtless man experiencing body aches on his neck and lower back

Conditions a Pain Stimulator Machine Can Help Manage

Pain stimulator machines can help manage various conditions. Nevertheless, consulting a medical professional before using electrotherapy is essential. This is because they can diagnose and form treatment plans for their specific health issue. They can also ensure that electric stimulation is safe for the condition.

Many people use TENS machines for various acute and chronic pain conditions. Acute pain is characterised as aches that do not last more than six months. The source of the ache is typically identifiable, with common causes being injuries or wounds. These conditions include labour pain, postoperative pain, muscle strains, sprains, and fractures. Body aches, like knee pain, also typically fall into this.

Meanwhile, chronic pain conditions are those that last for more than six months. There are various kinds, such as neuropathic pain from diabetic neuropathy, stump pain, phantom pain, and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Moreover, joint pain from different forms of arthritis may also be considered as chronic pain. Lastly, fibromyalgia, which causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, is another example.

Is It Safe?

Yes, using electronic stimulation machines is generally safe. However, similarly to other medical treatments, there are safety precautions individuals must follow. One of these is consulting a medical professional. Another precaution is studying the instruction manual for the unit to ensure proper use and electrode placement. Moreover, they should not place the electrode patches on sensitive areas like the spinal cord, throat, chest, and head.

Furthermore, users should be aware of the possible side effects electrical stimulation may cause. This includes temporary muscle twitching and tingling sensations during the session. Some may also experience skin irritation underneath the electrode pads if they overuse the unit.

Conclusion

Using a pain stimulator machine is an effective method of alleviating pain from various conditions. It works by delivering electrical pulses to muscles or nerves and triggering natural relief mechanisms in the body. This includes the pain gate mechanism and the production of endorphins. Furthermore, electric stimulation can help with healing injuries since it can cause vasodilation and increase blood flow to the target area. The types include TENS, IFC, and SCS.

TENS is an increasingly popular option because it is non-invasive and easy to purchase. Meanwhile, to undergo surgery for an SCS implant, individuals must meet several criteria and pass many assessments. Lastly, IFCs are more commonly seen in medical settings due to their higher frequencies. Nevertheless, these can be effective in treating conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, CRPS, and muscle strains. Those interested in TENS may consider the iTENS from ITENS Australia.

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