A Supplemental Way To Manage Pain – TENS Unit

A Supplemental Way To Manage Pain

Treating Localized Pain With a TEN’s Machine

I have always advocated a scientific pharmaceutical approach to treating chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other chronic invisible illnesses. Here’s why. . .

More than thirty years ago, late in 1984 I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a unique form of arthritis. The symptoms of fibromyalgia and AS are very similar to each other. So, for more than twenty years I had arthritis, or so I was told. I learned back then, through literature published by the National Arthritis Foundation to be leery of “snake oil” remedies. Unscrupulous characters are out there praying on the people who are desperate with pain and are willing to try anything to get out from under dire pain.

Unless people selling these remedies have scientific research to explain why their solution works, I ignore it. It cost too much money, effort, emotion and false hope trying everything that comes along. Heck, people can’t even afford legitimate medicine let alone unproven solutions.

Additionally, using the TENS machine is not, in my opinion, a replacement for pain MEDs. I use it to supplement what I am already doing to manage my pain.


I am writing about a TENS Unit for treating chronic pain. I would not mention it, if I didn’t have first had knowledge of its proven ability to manage pain. I don’t have the finances to try everything that comes along and I don’t have the emotional energy to pin my hopes on every little unproven hope for a cure.

The TENS Unit is a proven piece of medical equipment that helps manage pain. I have more than ten years of experience with the TENS Unit. Back in those days, you had to have a prescription to get one and most of the time, a pre approval from your insurance to get a TENS Unit.

Now days you can get one from the internet, medical supply stores, physical therapy and chiropractor offices. From my experience they work wonderfully.

“TENS” means “Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.” The way it was explained to me about eleven years ago was the electrical signal scrambled the pain signals that are going to the brain. When these scrambled pain signals get to the brain, the brain doesn’t recognize the “ouch” signal and doesn’t know you’re in pain. They also said that the signal stimulates blood flow to the affected area which helps the body heal the affected area.

What they now say, eleven years later, about a TENS Unit is similar to what they said a decade ago with a few exceptions. “TENS machine works by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. The stimulating pulses help prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. The TENS device also helps stimulate your body to produce higher levels of its own natural painkillers, called Endorphin’s.”

They didn’t mention anything about endorphin’s eleven years ago in conjunction with the use of a TENS machine.

The electrode or pads as I call them send electricity into the body “Transcutaneously” which means under the skin but not very far. I wear a TENS Unit often and in public. Sometimes I can conceal the unit, itself in a pocket but not always. When people see, this machine clipped somewhere on my shirt they ask about it. When I explain that the machine relieves pain by sending electricity into my body, they are aghast at the thought of deliberately “electrocuting” myself.

tens_machine_pain_management1It’s not that way at all. If you have ever been shocked by electricity, don’t worry, a TENS Unit is very different. It is electricity, but it’s not like getting shocked. It feels kind of prickly and sometimes warm and there is a pulse like feeling. It is weird, very weird, but very worth it. I highly recommend it along with your tried and true pharmaceuticals.

You no longer need a prescription to buy a TENS machine. They are affordable for most people. There are a few things to consider about the TENS Unit. The wires that connect the electrodes to the TENS machine are very fragile and can easily get damaged. You have to buy electrode pads frequently as they wear out. For me it is worth it. It is very helpful in minimizing local pain. You can always buy new wires when they wear out or get damaged.

I have learned how to maximize the effect of the TENS machine for me by placing them very near the major nerves that come out from the spinal cord. Strategically placing them covers a wider range of your nervous system. They also have different size and shapes of the electrode pads. The effect of the therapy radiates out from the pad covering a bigger area than what is covered by the pad. I have found that the bigger the pad isn’t always worth the increased price.

Personal Experience

I have not had the benefit of a TENS Unit for a few weeks because my wires got damaged. As a result, my neck slowly and steadily got more and more sore and very stiff. The last four or five days the portion of my spine that goes through my neck feels like it has turned into a 2″ x 4″ stud in place of my neck. It was so stiff and sore that it hurt to bend my neck up, down or sideways. Then I started to get very dizzy. The dizziness came in spurts. Some episodes of dizziness last several hours and forced me to sit being too dizzy to walk.

I know that dizziness is a symptom of fibromyalgia, but it is also a result of other symptoms and medicines. I had a feeling the dizziness might be associated with the pressure in my spine and the stiff pain in my neck.

I waited to write this article until my new wires came in and I could have a several hours with the TENS attached. I knew it would help my neck and tension headaches, but wondered if it would also help relieve the dizziness from the pain and pressure in my neck.

I got the wires yesterday in the mail. I wore the TENS machine for about six to eight hours on two places on my spine. Most of the time the patches were attached to the neck area and an hour or so attached to the t-spine area because of the pressure in that region.

Within a half hour the chronic headache went away and the neck relaxed and the 2″ x4″ went away. As I finish this article, right now my neck is stiff, but not at all sore. Since yesterdays TENS therapy I haven’t been dizzy.

Pros and Cons

In my opinion, the TENS machine is a miracle item for chronic fibro pain. I even use it on my thighs, forearms, wrists and calf’s. But there are some pros and cons I can think of, you may want to consider.


It relieves pain, even strong pain.

With widespread pain, sometimes MEDs will only work on certain areas. The patches of the TENS Unit can be localized just about anywhere, but not directly on bone or near the eyes. (Always read the instructions that come with the Unit.)

With intelligent use the TENS machine can be used for more than localized pain, but not for widespread pain. It will help wide spread pain, but not as effectively as localized pain.

Even though it is an electrical machine, it is natural and doesn’t have any medication side effects. Our nerve signals are carried by electricity in our body.


If you wear it like I do, for hours on end, the skin touched by the adhesive on the patch can get red and irritated, sometimes even itchy. Most people and most recommendations do not suggest wearing the TENS for that long.

The patches need to be replaced. They can be pricey, but they tend to be more affordable online.

The wires are the single most fragile part of the Unit. If they get shorted out, you’ll need to replace them

All the TENS machines I’ve owned (around five or six) take nine volt batteries. They wear out and need to be replaced.

There are four pros and four cons. However, in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons. If I ever travel, even for a single day road trip, I always make sure I have spare batteries and patches. They really make a difference. They are a good investment to make in pain management.

Members of my family and a few friends have used my TENS when they have hurt themselves with sprains, kinked backs etc. To me it is a miracle machine.

Troy Wagstaff ©

This article is written from personal perspective and is not medical advise. I am not liable for any medical issues arising from the information in this post

One Response

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: