Dealing with tailbone pain or coccydynia can be extremely uncomfortable and debilitating. This type of pain is often caused by injury, childbirth, or prolonged sitting on hard surfaces. It can make simple activities like sitting, walking, or even lying down painful. One effective treatment is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). A TENS unit for tailbone pain can help alleviate the symptoms without using medications. It has adjustable settings, allowing users to customise their pain management.
Treatments for tailbone pain may include non-inflammatory drugs, manual therapy, and TENS. It is vital to get a medical diagnosis to determine the right treatment plan. This can depend on the severity of the condition. As such, electrical stimulation offers individuals a non-invasive method to manage pain. This article will guide you through what is a TENS machine, how it works, and how to operate it for coccydynia treatment.
What is a TENS Unit for Tailbone Pain?
A TENS unit for tailbone pain is a battery-operated device that delivers low-voltage electrical currents to the body. It consists of a portable controller that generates electrical impulses and adhesive electrode pads. Traditional TENS machines have wired electrodes, while more modern versions may have wireless capabilities. Wireless TENS uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone app, enabling more convenient pain management.
TENS machines are programmable, allowing users to adjust the frequency, pulse duration, and intensity. This feature enables individuals to find the settings that work best for them. It can also help avoid the side effects often associated with pain medicines. Therefore, individuals can use the device anytime they need and as often as necessary.
Electric stimulation can provide temporary pain relief and promote relaxation of the muscles surrounding the tailbone coccygeal region. Moreover, TENS therapy offers versatile and comprehensive treatment. The device can be used for various conditions, including pelvic pain, osteoarthritis, muscle spasms, neuropathic pain, and pain during menstruation.
Symptoms and Causes of Coccydynia
- Pain and tenderness in the tailbone area or the base of the spine. This can range from a dull ache to occasional sharp pains.
- Discomfort while sitting. Sitting for extended periods can exacerbate the pain.
- Pain during bowel movements and sexual intercourse.
- Localised swelling or bruising in the coccyx region.
- Injury, such as falls or direct trauma to the tailbone.
- Repetitive strain from playing sports or activities that require leaning back and forth.
- Excess pressure on the coccyx during childbirth can cause injury.
- Prolonged sitting on hard surfaces.
- Obesity or excess weight can add strain or pressure on the tailbone.
How Does a TENS Unit for Tailbone Pain Work?
A TENS unit for tailbone pain relief delivers electric currents through electrode pads placed on the affected area. The currents reach the underlying nerves and stimulate them to block pain. Primarily, TENS can disrupt the transmission of pain signals in the spinal cord. It overrides the sensory nerves and prevents them from sending signals from the pain site to the brain.
Applying the electrodes to the area helps reduce pain based on the same principle that scratching relieves an itch. Nevertheless, being cautious when using a TENS unit while sitting down is vital. The tingling sensations may mask the symptoms; however, sitting for long periods may aggravate the cause of the pain.
Another way in which TENS works is by triggering the production of endorphins. It is a natural pain relief agent that inhibits the nerve cells from sending messages to the brain. As a result, it leads to a decreased intensity of pain and promotes a sense of well-being. Overall, it offers drug-free relief, especially for individuals with refractory coccydynia.
TENS involves several mechanisms to relieve pain symptoms. The first is the pain gate mechanism. The Gate Control Theory suggests that non-painful input can close the “gate” in the spinal cord. The electrical impulses act as non-painful input, preventing pain signals from passing through and reaching the brain.
The second mechanism is the endogenous opioid release. The body releases endorphins when it feels pain or stress. As mentioned earlier, TENS is one factor that can prompt its release. This can provide long-lasting therapeutic effects, which are helpful for chronic pains. These two mechanisms work in tandem to alleviate discomfort and promote healing.
How to Use a TENS Unit for Tailbone Pain
To begin treatment, place the electrodes on the pain area and turn on the TENS device. Set the parameters (frequency, intensity, and pulse duration) according to the manufacturer or pain doctor. Start with a low-intensity setting and gradually increase it until the sensations are comfortable. Some machines may have preset modes for the condition or body part. Thus, it is essential to check the features of the device.
Individuals may use the TENS unit for tailbone pain management multiple times per day. Each session typically lasts about 20 to 30 minutes. It is essential not to exceed one hour per duration to prevent overuse or skin irritation. Moreover, users may use coccygeal cushions when using the device while sitting. Likewise, they may alternate sitting and moving around during the treatment.
After the session, turn off the TENS machine and remove the electrode pads. Individuals may continue the therapy after a 20-minute break. It is advisable to consult a health professional before using a TENS unit, especially for people with underlying medical conditions.
Pad Placement Guide
Pain doctors and physical therapists recommend various pad placement selections. One option is to position one set of electrodes on both sides of the tailbone or sacrum and another above the pubic bone. This placement may also help with pelvic floor muscle stimulation.
An alternative is putting one set of pads at the sacrum and another below the ribcage or bra-strap level. Some individuals may find it helpful to experiment with different placements to determine what works for them. However, it is essential not to place the electrodes directly over the spine. Additionally, do not put the pads on areas with skin irritation.
Using a TENS unit for tailbone pain can be an effective and drug-free method of relief. It works by applying electrical impulses to the area, which can help block pain signals and release endorphins. These mechanisms work together to reduce the intensity of pain, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Furthermore, using the device involves a few steps. Individuals may consult a medical professional to receive correct advice regarding TENS settings, pad placement, and safety guidelines.
Proper usage of TENS requires attention to detail and adherence to instructions. Begin by placing the electrodes near the pain area. Ensure that sensitive body parts and areas with skin irritation, rashes, or broken skin are avoided. Then, adjust the settings gradually until the sensations are comfortable. If symptoms do not improve despite conservative treatments, individuals should seek medical attention. Finally, TENS can be beneficial when combined with manual manipulation, heating pads, and physical therapy.