Period cramps, also known as primary dysmenorrhoea, affect a large percentage of women during their menstrual cycle. The pain can range from mild discomfort to debilitating agony. This has led many women to seek various pain relief, including Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). A TENS machine for period cramps is easy to use. Individuals simply place the electrode pads on the pain area and adjust the electrical stimulation to a strong but comfortable sensation.
Pain relief for menstrual pain is available in many forms. The traditional methods are pain medications and heat therapy. However, some may have side effects from medicines, while others may find using hot water bottles inconvenient when outside. Thus, a TENS machine can serve as an alternative for effective pain relief. This article will provide a general guide on how TENS works and its proper usage and safety guidelines.
How a TENS Machine for Period Cramps Works
A TENS machine is a portable, battery-operated device that emits low-voltage electrical currents to relieve pain. It has a control unit to adjust the pattern of pulse delivery and sets of electrode pads. When the pads are placed on the skin, the electrical impulses flow through it and reach the underlying nerves. Hence, it activates the natural defence of the body against pain.
Moreover, the device has adjustable settings, allowing users to control the electrical stimulation. It includes the frequency, which is the number of pulses per second. The pulse width is the duration of each electrical pulse, and the pulse amplitude is the strength or intensity of the TENS sensations. Various combinations of these settings can have different therapeutic effects.
Another method in which a TENS machine for period cramps can help is through a preset mode. Most devices have built-in programs for various body aches and health conditions. Thus, it is vital for women to check if there is a treatment for abdominal cramps available in the device. This offers convenience for individuals who are not comfortable setting their own parameters.
The Main Theories at Work
- Gate Control Theory of Pain: it suggests that electricity can stimulate the sensory nerve fibres to close the gating mechanism in the central nervous system. Particularly, high-frequency stimulation can hinder the transmission of pain signals in the spinal cord from reaching the brain.
- Endogenous Opioid Release: low-frequency stimulation triggers the production of natural painkillers like endorphins and enkephalins. Endorphins bind to opioid receptors to produce an analgesic effect.
- Increase Blood Circulation: electrical stimulation alters vessel size, improving blood flow to the target area. This helps reduce inflammation and swelling that is normally associated with menstrual pain.
Proper Usage of TENS Machine for Period Cramps
The proper usage of a TENS machine for period cramps is essential to achieve optimal results. At the first signs of period pain, place the electrode pads on the treatment area and start the stimulation. Turn on the device and adjust the settings or choose a preset mode. It is important to start at the lowest level and increase the intensity over time.
Additionally, set the treatment session for 15 to 30 minutes, making sure to turn off the unit after each session. To get the most effective relief, set the stimulation intensity to a level that is strong but tolerable. High-intensity pulses may produce a noticeable muscle twitch, but they should not cause further pain or discomfort.
It is vital to remember that the treatment duration should not exceed one hour. For continuous treatment, allow a 20-minute break before starting a new session. Moreover, always check the quality or the condition of the TENS unit before and after use. The electrode pads should adhere well to the skin and not come off easily during movement.
Proper electrode placement allows for the electrical currents to stimulate the right nerves. People with period pain may place the TENS pads on the abdominal area where the pain is mostly felt. Generally, the pads should be on the lower abdomen or below the belly button.
Another effective placement is at the lower back if the menstrual cramps extend to the area. Position the electrodes on both sides of the spine and keep them at least one inch apart. However, it is essential to avoid electrode contact with broken skin, open wounds, or irritated or infected skin.
Safety Precautions When Using a TENS Machine Period Cramps
While a TENS machine for period cramps offers natural pain relief, it is vital to take safety precautions when using the device. Users should be aware of any potential risks and follow the instructions carefully. Firstly, it is recommended to consult a doctor if a person has serious conditions like heart problems, epilepsy, and cancer. Therefore, medical professionals can give advice on whether TENS therapy is a suitable treatment or the appropriate setting to use.
Secondly, be mindful not to set the intensity too high, as it can cause more pain than relief. In addition, high-intensity and prolonged use may lead to skin irritation, muscle fatigue, and tissue damage. Thirdly, some people may experience allergic reactions due to the TENS pads. If this occurs, discontinue use and clean the area with warm soap and mild water. Individuals may use hypoallergenic pads to minimise discomfort.
Furthermore, do not use a TENS machine in the bath or while sleeping or driving. Exposure to water has a risk of electric shock. Lastly, be aware of other sensitive areas to avoid, such as the chest, head, and front and sides of the neck.
When to See a Doctor?
It is vital to consult a healthcare professional for period pain that deviates from the normal symptoms. For example, women should seek medical attention for painful periods that last longer than three days. Likewise, severe pain may indicate an underlying condition like endometriosis or fibroids.
A doctor can perform an examination and provide a diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan. Moreover, it is important to get medical advice if the period pain does not get better even after TENS therapy, oral medicines, heating pads, and other treatments. Equally important, consult a professional if side effects from TENS persist.
TENS therapy is a safe and effective way to manage various types of pain. Using a TENS machine for period cramps is one of the best applications of the device. It works by stimulating the sensory nerves to block pain signals and releasing natural painkillers like endorphins. The electrical stimulation from the device can help reduce inflammation and relax the muscles. Thus, it can significantly reduce the pain levels during the menstrual period.
A TENS machine has adjustable settings, allowing individuals to modulate the stimulation to their comfort level. However, it is essential not the exceed the recommended frequency and intensity to prevent any potential harm. Additionally, there are several safety precautions to keep in mind. Users should avoid electrode placement on irritated skin and sensitive areas. Likewise, avoid prolonged use. For best results, it is advisable to consult a health professional for proper guidance and advice.