Approximately 350 million people worldwide live with arthritis, which can make everyday activities such as getting dressed and doing chores very difficult due to the extreme discomfort it can cause. More than half of those with arthritis are under 65 years of age. Arthritis disables more people than any other chronic disorder.
While there are numerous treatments for arthritis, the use of the TENS machine is becoming more common because of its efficiency. We would discuss the treatment using a TENS machine as well as the frequently asked questions about this method of managing arthritic pains.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis involves inflammation of one or more joints of the body, usually producing pain, redness, and stiffness. It can affect one joint or multiple joints.
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) aka “wear-and-tear” arthritis – a degenerative disease of the joints that commonly occurs with aging, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an autoimmune disease of unknown cause which is a progressive, crippling joint disorder most common in women between 25 and 50.
The symptoms of arthritis usually develop over time, but they may also appear suddenly. Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65, but it can also develop in children, teens, and younger adults. Arthritis is more common in women than men and in people who are overweight.
The more that we understand that the stress we place our joints today can lead to the development of arthritis later, the more we might treat them — and ourselves — with better care
What causes arthritis?
Determining the cause of arthritis can be difficult since multiple, overlapping factors typically contribute to its development. Among the 7 most common risk factors associated with arthritis:
The symptoms of arthritis.
During the early stages of arthritis, you may feel a variety of symptoms, including
Ways that you can treat arthritis symptoms
Medicines you rub on your skin or take by mouth, injections, physical therapy, heat, cold, and acupuncture are just a few of the ways to make your arthritis more bearable. Yet you may still be searching for relief.
There is no cure for arthritis. However, the types of medications recommended by your doctor will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how long you’ve had it.
Clinical studies indicate that remission of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins early with medications known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These drugs can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and save the joints and other tissues from permanent damage.
There are also non–steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can relieve pain and reduce inflammation, as well as steroids and biologic agents (also known as biologic response modifiers). These drugs can target parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation that causes joint and tissue damage.
This is what TENS machine therapy is.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)Unit – or neuromodulation – is an alternative to medication for treating arthritis pain. It’s the principle of using electricity to decrease pain sensations. Neuromodulation treatments can ease pain with minimal risks.
Electrical stimulation for pain control was used in ancient Rome, 63 A.D. Pain was relieved by standing on an electrical fish at the seashore. In the 16th through the 18th century, various electrostatic devices were used for headache and other pains.
The first modern, patient-wearable TENS was patented in the United States in 1974. It was initially used for testing the tolerance of chronic pain patients to electrical stimulation before implantation of electrodes in the spinal cord dorsal column. Although intended only for testing tolerance to electrical stimulation, many of the patients said they received so much relief from the TENS itself that they never returned for the implant.
TENS is a simple, non-invasive technique, in which electrical currents, generated by a portable stimulating unit, powered by a small 9 volt battery, are passed through the surface of the skin to activate underlying nerves via two or four electrodes. Conductive gel or pre-gelled electrodes are used to decrease resistance across the skin-electrode interface, and the electrodes can be concealed under clothing if necessary.
TENS produces a “strong and comfortable” tingling sensation (electrical paraesthesia) within the painful area and the intensity and quality of electrical paraesthesia (ie pulse intensity, pulse frequency and pulse pattern) can be varied and controlled by the patient according to his/her requirements. TENS has been shown to produce useful analgesic effects in all types of patients suffering from acute or chronic pain and has gained worldwide attention and use.
Using a TENS machine to treat the symptoms of arthritis.
A TENS machine has controls that allow you to administer an appropriate level of pain relief. People can achieve this by altering the areas of the electrical current.
TENS works in two ways:
TENS can be delivered at low frequency (l-TENS) or high frequency (h-TENS). Many TENS devices have a controller that lets you pick the frequency you prefer.
While using a TENS machine, you’ll experience a non-painful tingling or buzzing sensation, and this can help to block or suppress pain messages. Two electrode pads are usually positioned either side of the area of most intense pain. This is done so that the TENS sensation covers the painful area.
Four electrode pads can be used to treat a larger area of pain. You’ll be able to control the strength, (or ‘volume’) of the current that’s passed through the electrodes, with a rotary knob or dial. Some machines have larger controls that are easier to use if your hand movements are limited.
You can adjust the strength of the current until the tingling sensation from TENS is intense, but not painful. You’ll also be able to adjust the pattern and speed of the current, so that the TENS sensation is as comfortable as possible. Many TENS machines are digital and have helpful pre-sets to help you choose the best settings for your pain.
Does using a TENS machine really work for treating arthritis?
Yes it certainly does!
TENS helps acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) pain. TENS has been shown to relieve osteoarthritis (OA) pain and reduce the need for pain medications. A 2015 Cochrane Review concluded, “[there is] tentative evidence that TENS reduces pain intensity over and above that seen with placebo.” There is an estimate of people who try TENS get a 50% reduction in pain.
Several factors may influence the effectiveness of TENS:
A 2012 review suggests that the duration of pain relief increases after repeated TENS treatments. However, this repetition can also increase the likelihood of a person building up a tolerance to the treatment. To prevent this from occurring, people can alternate between Low Frequency and High Frequency TENS within each treatment session, or they can gradually increase the intensity or duration of TENS on a daily basis.
The range of intensities of the electrical stimulation may account for some of the differences in research findings.Given that High Frequency TENS is a more effective pain reliever, experts recommend that people apply the highest-intensity TENS that they can tolerate.
TENS may be more effective if people place the electrodes on acupuncture points. Acupuncture is a practice that uses needles to stimulate the nerves beneath the skin at specific locations known as acupuncture points.
The benefits of using a TENS machine to treat arthritis.
TENS unit therapy is ideal for the treatment of arthritis. TENS has many advantages over conventional treatment for pain.
This is how to use a TENS machine to treat arthritis.
TENS is an alternative to medication for treating arthritis pain. These devices are generally safe. However, they involve sending electrical impulses though your body. So it’s important to talk with your doctor first.
Using a TENS machine effectively.
If you’ve lived with arthritis for any length of time, your doctor has undoubtedly talked you through a menu of pain-relief options.
TENS machine therapy has minimal risks.
Tens machine therapy has very low risks as long as the below guidance is followed.
TENS offers a great alternative treatment for arthritis. They are useful when managing joint pain as they send pulses to nerve endings which stimulate the body’s natural pain relief mechanism to block the pain. Although there is limited evidence to support its effectiveness, patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have reportedsignificant reduction in pain, particularly when they were using the TENS machine alongside changes to their lifestyle.
To have better chances with TENS, professional diagnosis and recommendation are vital. You should check in with a doctor who has your medical history to assist in selecting the correct stimulator and give advice on the placement of electrodes according to the regions of pain.