Bone and Joint Action Week happens October 12 to 20 each year. Focusing on musculoskeletal conditions is a big task. These conditions include everything from osteoporosis, to injuries and congenital conditions. In this blog, we’re focusing on arthritis pain and back pain, and how Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is one way to help relieve symptoms.
What is TENS?
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) involves applying mild electric current to painful muscles and joints through pads attached to the skin. TENS units come in many varieties and the scientific theory behind TENS suggests it may block pain signals to the brain, increase circulation to targeted areas and help produce painkilling endorphins.
Two common types of arthritis
Arthritis is a general term for joint pain or joint disease, and there more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. Two major types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
1) Osteoarthritis is caused by joint degeneration or “wear and tear” over time
2) Rheumatoid arthritis is an abnormal response of the immune system that produces inflammation and joint damage
Both types can cause pain, stiffness and difficulty moving that get in the way of everyday life.
TENS for arthritis
While TENS therapy can’t cure arthritis, it can help manage pain symptoms, while reducing the need for pain medications, like opioids.
Tips on using a TENS unit for arthritis:
- In a single joint – Place the pads on either side of the painful joint
- In multiple areas – Apply pads to the most painful areas first, followed by others, as needed
- Chronic pain in the hips or knees – Along with applying pads to affected areas, also try placing them on the low back where the nerves originate
What causes back pain?
Back pain is a general term, and people experience it in different ways—from soreness and sharp pain to stiffness and achy joints. Common causes of back pain can include:
- Muscle “atrophy” or deconditioning of the muscles from wear and tear
- Poor posture
- Trauma from accidents and injury
- Genetics and aging
Back exercises and yoga for back pain are ways of strengthening and increasing mobility to your back that can help improve healing and your quality of life. TENS therapy can be used along with these practices to give relief for pain.
Tips on placing TENS pads for back pain:
- Place one pad vertically at the top of the painful are and the other one vertically at the bottom
- Attach the pads symmetrically to painful areas, keeping your spine at the center
Choosing a TENS device
When buying a TENS unit, look for one with a variety of modes and intensities so you can get personalized relief. Other factors to consider include:
- Wireless and Bluetooth capability
- Dual channel TENS units with microcurrent therapy
- Units with a heat therapy component
The value of TENS therapy isn’t limited to people with a specific diagnosis of arthritis or back pain. General muscle aches and pains or soreness and stiffness from work, exercise, overuse or just life itself are also great reasons to have a portable TENS device handy for regular use. Omron Healthcare makes a variety of at-home TENS units to fit your lifestyle. Check them out here.