TENS units- anybody here ever used one before?

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who here has ever used a TENS unit?
yes i have, it helped with my pain. :) 38%  38%  [ 3 ]
yes, i have but all it did was add a buzz to my pain. :| 13%  13%  [ 1 ]
yes i did but it hurt worse than my original pain! :( 13%  13%  [ 1 ]
no but i'm curious :) 38%  38%  [ 3 ]
meh- give me my ice cream :) 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 8

auntblabby
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12 Oct 2012, 12:27 am

my recent accident introduced me to the fascinating world of Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation, or TENS for short. before i borrowed a unit from a family friend, i knew absolutely nothing about them other than the most basic theory that external electrical pulses transmitted through the skin over a painful area seemed to block out much pain, through either-

1] generation of endorphins,
2]overloading the "gate" nerves so that pain impulses are headed off at the pass,
3]the buzzing stimulation of TENS distracts the conscious mind from pain feelings, or
4] some combination of the aforementioned 3 theories.

so after placing the electrode pads and turning the unit on, i experimented with the various preset programs or algorithms [sometimes called "modulations"] - some of 'em pulsed the power on and off, some alternated stimulation on channels A and B, some switched back and forth between various pulse rates/pulse widths and pulse lengths [measured in microseconds], and others were mixtures of the aforementioned schemes. i found that to avoid "nervous accomodation" [IOW the nervous system gets used to a certain amount or kind of stimulation and learns to ignore it as "background noise" and/or becomes more efficient at transmitting pain signals] i had to switch often between different types of stimulation. also, i learned that too high a pulse rate and/or pulse width [higher than 100 pulses per second/200 microseconds pulse width] caused a "electrical shock/contact pressure" type of sensation and/or caused my muscles to twitch. so i settled on a variable pulse rate between 50 and 100 pulses per second, if i went appreciably below 50 it felt too "staccato" to me, like something was drumming a rhymic tattoo into my arm. for physical/occupational therapy to be successfully numbed sufficient to take the harsh edge off of it, i turned the pulse rate up to 90 p.p.s. and 6 microvolts. for resting pain relief, i turn the pulse rate down to 50 or 60 p.p.s. @ 4 microvolts but leave the pulse width at between 150 and 200 microseconds, anything less and the effect loses potency [for me at least].

more tips and tricks-
*the most common electrode pads are reusable pre-gelled pads whose life expectancy can be greatly increased by taking care to gently peel the pads from their plastic backing sheet each time they are reused, and from your skin after use- WET the gel side of the pads over their whole surface before replacing the pads on their backing sheet. ALSO [important point!] WIPE your pad site [anatomical location of pads on body] with alcohol swabs before placing pads, because skin oils drastically reduce the useful life of the pregelled electrode pads!

*for orthopedic analgesic applications, use both channels [A & B], with each channel on either side of the painful area per side of limb- place the electrode pads as close to the painful area as possible while on the boundaries of said painful area. IOW, the red leads will be either at the dorsal or ventral ends of the painful limb area, while the black leads will be at the proximal or distal ends. as a crude ASCII description of an electrical circuit, the proper wiring diagram will look something like RED=BLACK or BLACK=RED, on the top and bottom surface of your limb. with my own example of my elbow/upper forearm, i put both red leads on either side of my middle forearm, while the black leads are on either side of my bicep. this allows the microcurrent to flow through the painful area rather than just spotlight either side of my arm.

*i find that TENS units which are powered by rechargable 9 volt nickel-metal-hydride [NiMH] batteries are the best combo of economical and easy to replace- no messing with up to 4 AA batteries like in some TENS units. get at least 2 replacement 9V batteries and a charger, so you won't have to be pumping batteries into your TENS like coins into a slot machine.

*not all TENS units are equal- some are "medical grade" and have much improved internal circuitry [much more efficient with battery power] than others- i borrowed an EMPI Epix VT [a medical grade unit] and its rechargable NiMH 9V battery would last about 70 hours per charge- a TENS 7000 unit i bought, OTOH, only lasted about 12 hours between charges with the same NiMH battery. the medical grade units cost a few hundred dollars more, on average, and also require a doctor's prescription to obtain. the EMPI Epix VT is the best unit out there that i have found, and if you can get one off of ebay you have a winner. the TENS 7000 that i bought, is good enough but requires lots of batteries, as it has roughly 1/6 the battery life. part of the difference, i believe, is the 24 gauge lead wiring the TENS 7000 uses, compared with the stout 18 gauge wiring the EMPI unit uses- at those tiny microvolt power levels, the quality of insulated lead wires matters greatly. i may try to find some 16 gauge lead wire someplace to see if i can get better battery life out of my TENS 7000.

now, will anybody else here on WP tell me their TENS stories? :idea:



Last edited by auntblabby on 12 Oct 2012, 10:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.

GiantHockeyFan
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12 Oct 2012, 7:17 am

My parents tried it on me a few years back when I had back pain and even at the lowest possible setting it was unbearably uncomfortable. They simply refused to believe I could be such a wimp so I had to forcibly to tell to the turn the 4@%%^$# thing off NOW! I literally had a meltdown within seconds so unfortunately I can't say anything positive about it.



blueroses
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12 Oct 2012, 8:49 am

I did physical therapy for a back and neck injury and the pt had a medical grade one in her office that she used on me twice a week or so, for a period of a few months. I loved it and used to tell them to crank it up as high as it would go. I didn't want to take prescription painkillers because I was afraid of the side effects and had to limit my use of heat, due to problems with inflammation, so the TENS really helped me out while I was using it.



auntblabby
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12 Oct 2012, 10:47 pm

GiantHockeyFan wrote:
My parents tried it on me a few years back when I had back pain and even at the lowest possible setting it was unbearably uncomfortable. They simply refused to believe I could be such a wimp so I had to forcibly to tell to the turn the 4@%%^$# thing off NOW! I literally had a meltdown within seconds so unfortunately I can't say anything positive about it.
i am led to conclude that your parents [albeit well-meaning] did not apply the TENS in the correct way- either the pad placement was wrong or the settings were wrong. the TENS unit can certainly be made to be a torture device in the wrong hands.



auntblabby
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12 Oct 2012, 10:49 pm

i forgot to add in my original post a very important point- that for maximum pad life, one needs to wipe one's pad site [anatomical location of pad on body] with alcohol swabs, as skin oils drastically reduce the useful life of the pregelled electrode pads, which aren't cheap.



1000Knives
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12 Oct 2012, 11:11 pm

I found one in the trash but I don't have any pads for it.



auntblabby
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12 Oct 2012, 11:26 pm

1000Knives wrote:
I found one in the trash but I don't have any pads for it.

in the TRASH? :huh: unless it was broken, that is a moral CRIME to throw away a perfectly functional device when somebody else could get some use out of it! :( :x

[meltdown over :oops: ]

the pregelled pads are not cheap but widely available on the ever-present web, average price for 10 packs of 4 each would be about $25. if you take proper care of them you can get about a month's worth of use out of each set. this means religiously observing the following tips-

*clean the pad side [where you will place the pads] with an alcohol swab before pad placement, as skin oils reduce the useful life of the pads-

*peel the pads GENTLY from both their backing sheet and from your skin after your TENS session/day is finished-

*after removing the pads from your skin for replacement upon their backing sheet, first wet the gelled surface of each pad with some water over their whole area before placing the pads back upon their backing sheet.

i hope this trash treasure you found works and gives you good service :) my original post gives about as much info as one needs to get started.

some additional info-

do NOT place the pads anywhere near any implants, such as orthopedic plates/pins, or pacemakers. avoid the eyes or temples or anywhere on the head, for that matter. if one has had open-chest surgery with sternum wires for closure of ribcage, avoid placing pads anywhere near there also.