I am always on the lookout for new tools to help my patients. For patients with conditions such as osteoarthtitis (degenerative disc disease), sprains and strains, and disc herniations, chiropractic adjustments alone are often not enough to control the chronic pain. Over the counter and prescription medications can be helpful, but often have nasty side effects such as stomach ulcers, kidney damage, liver damage, and addiction. Cortisone injections can lead to ligament and tendon degeneration.
I prefer to take a more natural and less risky approach to pain control. In the office, I will sometimes use electrical stimulation in order to block pain signals, decrease inflammation, and relax muscle spasms. Patients usually report significant pain relief during and immediately after electrical stimulation, but over time the effects wear off. For this reason, I have recently acquired a few portable TENS units. TENS, which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a type of portable electrical stimulation that the patient can take home and use for several hours at a time. It is only the size of a deck of cards and can be clipped to your belt. It has four self-adhesive electrodes that you place on the area of pain. I help show you were to place the electrodes and set the pulse width and frequency. All you have to do is turn it on and turn the dial to the desired intensity.
How does it work? Nerves can only do so many things at once. When you pass an electrical current through a nerve, it gets “distracted” by the new stimulus, and less pain signals are able to get through. Have you ever hurt yourself and reflexively started rubbing the hurt area? It is the same concept at work. By rubbing the area, you are stimulating the nerves that conduct information about pressure and touch, so less pain signals are able to get through. Also, electrical stimulation causes your body to release endorpins, the body’s own natural pain killer.
As long as you are not pregnant, you don’t have a pacemaker, and you use the TENS only as directed, it is a very safe and effective technique. It is not addictive, and it can be used as often as you need for pain control. It is also covered by most insurances. If you are having chronic pain, ask about TENS at your next appointment at King Chiropractic.