Using your TENS unit for arthritis relief can help with the day-to-day management of your condition. Saying arthritis can cause discomfort is an understatement. Unfortunately, relying on prescribed medication isn’t always the best path for finding relief.
Long term use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can destroy your stomach lining and leave you more susceptible to ulcers and damage to your kidneys and liver. Severe cases of arthritis require these medications, but at the same time, it’s important to look for methods outside of your mediation to find relief.
Using a TENS unit for arthritis treatment is attractive because it’s a non-invasive, chemical-free option. It’s also a cost-effective treatment option with limited reoccurring costs.
This article will detail how TENS units work, the proper way to use a TENS unit for arthritis relief, and how to recover from a TENS therapy session.
How Does A TENS Unit Work?
TENS units work to relieve pain by sending electrical pulses through your body. Start by cleaning the area of your body where you’re having pain with rubbing alcohol and let the skin dry. Then attach the pads (also known as electrodes) near the area where you are having pain.
Your TENS unit will send electrical pulses through your body, which helps block the electrical pain signals that are being sent to your brain. The massage sensation, combined with the electrical pulses gives you natural pain relief. TENS therapy also works for healing conditions like sciatic nerve pain.
Another way a TENS unit works for arthritis relief is by encouraging your body to produce higher levels of natural painkillers. Encephalin and endorphins are chemicals produced by your brain that attack pain. Consistent TENS therapy treatment sessions will help your brain naturally produce more of these chemicals!
How To Use A TENS Unit For Arthritis Relief
Typical TENS therapy sessions range from 20 to 30 minutes long. You don’t want to overuse your TENS machine and risk injuring your body. When planning your therapy session, start with the areas of your body that have the most pain.
You can focus on one area for 20 – 30 minutes, or you can switch up the locations of the electrodes during the same session. Stick to 3-4 sessions a day to avoid wearing out your body and skin.
If you have hip pain from arthritis, using your TENS machine on your lower back can actually help with relief. The nerves in your hip and knee originate in your lower back and spine area. When using your TENS unit for knee arthritis pain, you can try placing the electrodes on your quad and on your calf instead of directly on the knee.
Remember, that your entire body is connected, so sometimes the most effective placement for the electrodes isn’t directly where you’re having pain.
Test out different positions for the electrodes when using your TENS unit for arthritis relief.
Recovering From A TENS Session
TENS therapy sessions can almost immediately improve your mobility after the session is over. Although you might feel better, take it easy and give your body time to recover.
Stay away from engaging in physical activity that can overuse or injure the area you just used the TENS machine on.
Using your TENS machine for arthritis can delay some of the serious side effects associated with arthritis. Studies have shown that people have been able to delay joint replacements thanks to the benefits of TENS therapy.
When using your TENS machine for arthritis, you may notice you develop a tolerance to how effective it is in certain spots. To avoid this, make sure you are always strategically placing the electrodes on your body.
Always using the TENS machine in the same area numbs your nerves and reduces the effectiveness of the treatment.
Remember, your body is connected in all kinds of ways, so you don’t need to put the pads directly on where you’re having pain. Save direct placement for times when you are having severe pain.
Why Should You Use A TENS Unit For Arthritis?
As said before, TENS therapy is great because it’s non-invasive. If you find relief from TENS therapy, you can reduce the amount of drugs you take to manage your arthritis.
A lot of drugs prescribed for arthritis have nasty side effects that are a necessary evil in order to get pain relief. With TENS therapy, you can reduce the amount of medications you take, which can potentially reduce your healthcare costs. If you feel dependent on anti-inflammatories and can’t function without them, it’s worth considering alternative treatment options.
A 2014 study from the University of Iowa Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science Department found that both high and low-frequency TENS stimulation activate different opioid receptors in the brain. Activation of these receptors has been shown to provide relief from pain.
The study noted that high-frequency TENS therapy can be quite effective for people already taking opioids to manage their pain. This shows that TENS therapy can be a great way to reduce your reliance on pain medications throughout the day.
The same study also noted that adjusting frequencies and electrode placement is essential to finding relief from your TENS unit. A simple adjustment in frequency or placement can shift a person from feeling pain to getting relief.
Another reason to get a TENS machine for arthritis is that they are relatively inexpensive. You only have to purchase the machine once. You may need to buy additional electrodes and rubbing alcohol to prep the area before use. Aside from that, TENS therapy is a very cost-effective technique to attack your arthritis pain.
Let us know if TENS therapy works for your arthritis pain in the comments!