Managing neuropathic pain can be challenging. Many seek non-pharmacological treatments to attain safe pain relief. One popular method is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). A TENS machine for neuropathic pain works by delivering low-voltage electrical currents to override the sensory nerves. This causes the nerves to interrupt the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Therefore, the body perceives less pain and alleviates the symptoms. Thus, it is a drug-free pain management method for acute and chronic pain.
Neuropathic pain is a type of nerve disease or damage that can result from numerous conditions. It is usually caused by a trauma to the nerve, which creates an abnormal functioning of the nerve tissue, sending frequent signals to the brain. The intensity of the pain can vary from mild to severe and may be intermittent or constant. In this article, we will cover the type of TENS machines, how it works, and how to operate the device.
What is a TENS Machine for Neuropathic Pain?
A TENS machine for neuropathic pain is a portable medical device that transmits small electrical pulses to the body. It has a handheld control unit where users can adjust the patterns of electrical stimulation. It then connects to adhesive electrodes, typically by wires. However, several modern units utilise Bluetooth technology to operate the device.
A wireless TENS machine is more compact and lightweight due to the wireless electrode pads. It also eliminates the need for holding a remote control. This device type allows for more flexible movements or range of motion during the treatment. Hence, individuals can combine TENS with physical therapy like exercise and acupuncture for pain relief.
Aside from adjustable settings, the TENS machine features several preset modes. The number of programs may depend on the specific brand or model. These programs have fixed settings designed for a particular condition to give optimal relief. Thus, it is vital to check if the TENS unit has a treatment mode for neuropathic pain, such as diabetic neuropathy and sciatica.
Causes of Neuropathic Pain
- Nerve compression – it is a common cause of nerve pain due to a herniated disc in the spine or carpal tunnel syndrome. This is the leading factor of sciatica pain symptoms.
- Peripheral neuropathy – is a general term for diseases affecting the peripheral nervous system, such as diabetic neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgia. It can cause
- Diabetes – it can lead to nerve damage and poor blood circulation. Hence, a poor blood supply to the nerves can cause numbness and radiating pain.
- Spinal cord injury – direct trauma to the nerves in the vertebrae.
- Cancer pain – treatment with radiation may result in nerve damage, leading to severe pain.
How a TENS Machine for Neuropathic Pain Works to Provide Relief
A TENS machine for neuropathic pain works by sending electrical impulses to the affected area. The pulses travel from the electrodes to the skin to stimulate the underlying nerves. This causes the peripheral and central mechanisms of the body responsible for pain control. In particular, the effectiveness of TENS is based on two main theories, namely Gate Control Theory and Endorphin Release Theory.
The principle of the Gate Control Theory suggests that electrical impulses activate the pain gate mechanism. This would involve certain nerve fibres in the spinal cord to block the passage of pain signals to the brain. On the other hand, the Endorphin Release Theory involves the production of natural painkillers. Endorphins and other endogenous substances help in the reduction of pain levels.
Another benefit of TENS therapy is to increase blood circulation. This helps deliver more oxygen to the affected nerves or body tissues, which helps to reduce inflammation. As a result, it minimises swelling and discomfort and restores the range of motion.
Advantages Over Other Treatment Methods
TENS machines provide numerous benefits and advantages for pain management over other methods. Firstly, the device is safe for personal use. It does not require the supervision of a medical professional. Secondly, it is non-invasive. Unlike medications or surgeries, it has no known long-term side effects or complications.
Moreover, the adjustable setting of the device allows individuals control over their pain relief. It provides targeted treatment through direct electrode placement on the affected area. Additionally, alternating the strength of the electric currents also helps prevent the development of tolerance. Lastly, it is cost-efficient for long-term use. It minimises recurring costs from medications or doctor visits.
How to Operate a TENS Machine for Neuropathic Pain
Operating a TENS machine for neuropathic pain is relatively simple; however, it requires care and precautions. Before using the device, always clean the skin area with warm water and gentle soap. Then, pat the skin dry before putting the electrodes. Additionally, it is important to follow the correct pad placement for effective treatment.
Place the electrodes on the affected area, usually two or more pads on the side of the painful nerve. Next, turn on the TENS machine and adjust the settings, including the frequency and pulse duration. Start with a low intensity and gradually increase until the tingling sensations feel strong but comfortable. Users may experiment with different settings or stimulation modes to find the most optimal relief.
Furthermore, the treatment duration typically lasts for 30 minutes for chronic pain conditions like neuropathy. After the session, turn off the device before removing the pads. TENS machines are suitable for home use and provide a non-invasive and natural form of pain relief.
Is There a Risk of Adverse Effects?
There is a minimal risk of adverse effects from using a TENS unit. It may occur due to incorrect use of the device or not taking the necessary precautions. The potential side effects include skin irritation and dizziness. However, these often disappear after removing the electrodes.
TENS may not be suitable for people with heart conditions, epilepsy, pacemakers, and pregnant women. Moreover, using the device on the head, throat, and chest may lower blood pressure and other unpleasant effects. To ensure safe pain management, individuals should consider seeking advice from a healthcare professional before using the device.
TENS machines are a safe and effective way to manage pain. They are portable devices that send mild electrical impulses to the body. It works by stimulating the nerves to block pain messages from reaching the brain. It also triggers the release of more endorphins in the body. In addition, a TENS machine for neuropathic pain management is drug-free and does not have long-term side effects. Thus, it is safe and suitable to use for home treatments.
Operating the device is easy. It involves identifying the correct pad placement and adjusting the settings. The programmable frequency, duration, and intensity of the pulses allow individuals to customise their pain relief according to their needs. Thus, it is vital to follow the guidelines for TENS treatment for effective results and avoid safety risks. For instance, individuals with serious medical conditions must seek medical advice before using a TENS machine.