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Everything You Need To Know About TENS, A Therapy For Pain Relief

Everything You Need To Know About TENS, A Therapy For Pain Relief

Electricity is nothing short of a magic (and it is not at all fake for a magic). It has changed the world and our lives for good. Electricity has been used, since its birth, in the field of human treatment. TENS therapy is one of those treatment methods which makes a brilliant use of electric current. It is by far the most popular electrotherapy in the field of physical therapy.

Shock treatments are extensively used for a number of brain and nerve related ailments. Zapping the brain for electrical stimulation is well known to the general public.

TENS Therapy works pretty much on the same principle of electrical stimulation of the brain or spinal cord and it is rapidly gaining recognition as an effective treatment for acute and chronic physical pain and discomfort.

Here’s all that you need to know about the TENS.

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1. What is TENS? How does it work?

TENS is an acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation which is a treatment for physical pain. The theory is to send an electric current through the nerves that are sending pain signals to the brain, which in turn interferes with the pain signals scrambling them and ultimately reducing pain. TENS may also help the body to produce more endorphin – a natural painkiller and change the way the brain responds to pain signals.

It uses a small, low-voltage battery powered machine to supply electrical current that travels along the nerve fibers in the affected area of the body, disrupting the pain signals traveling along the same nerves and hence, relieving pain.

The machines are called TENS units (generally of a size of a pocket radio) and usually have two electrode pads to attach to the skin. Consumer TENS units allow to configure the machine to different settings to adjust the intensity and flow of current, as required by the patient.

2. What is it used for?

TENS is used to treat pain and discomfort caused by several different types of illnesses and a wide range of conditions including arthritis, back pain, neck pain, muscle spasms, knee pain, period pain, etc. People also use it as a method to reduce acute pain caused by sport injuries and even to relieve pain during labor.

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It is also commonly used by cancer patients as a means to reduce chronic pain.

3. How is it used?

TENS units are small and lightweight, designed for portability and use on the move. They can be clipped to the belt, put in a pocket or held in a hand and can be used while working.

To use it, the electrodes are attached to the skin in the area experiencing pain and the electric current is turned on with the right setting. It is important where the electrodes are put for the maximum benefit from TENS. The best way to position the electrodes is to attach them to the outer edges of the affected area. Make sure the machine is switched off before you place the electrodes on the skin.

The need of intensity and frequency may vary among individuals so make sure to turn up the pulse generator high enough to feel the tingling sensation but below the level where you feel pain. Adjusting the settings correctly for individual conditions is crucial to take the maximum benefit from TENS.

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There are hundreds of different types and brands of TENS machines available in the market these days. Make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to use the unit properly.

4. How safe is it? Does it have side effects?

Electrical Nerve Stimulation- that might sound worrying to some people, but rest assured; it is nothing like getting electrocuted involuntarily. Consumer TENS units just don’t have enough juice in them to be dangerous enough. The worst that could happen with TENS is mild shock from faulty devices or mishandling the TENS unit. TENS can be used as long as one wants and unlike prescription drugs, it does not have the danger of overdose.

Doctors generally consider it to be safer to relieve pain than the drugs which may have side effects. TENS comes with far lesser side effects than the drugs for pain relief. Skin burns and irritations are reported rarely in some people. For most people, TENS has no serious side effects or no side effects at all.

5. How effective is it?

The effectiveness of TENS isn’t backed by any scientific evidence, rather is based on individual experiences. It is not a guaranteed solution for pain relief and it may not help some individuals sometimes. Some researchers have concluded that it works no better than a placebo.

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This seems rather odd for such a popular therapy, but many individuals have found TENS helpful for them despite the messy evidences.

6. Who cannot use it?

It is better not to opt for TENS if the cause of pain is unknown. Always seek medical advice first. TENS is not suggested to pregnant women, to those who have metal or electrical implants like pacemaker or defibrillator, to those who have skin conditions and to those with epilepsy and heart problems.

7.Are all TENS units alike?

There are various types and brands of TENS machine available in the market so choosing a TENS unit can get tricky. Not all of them are alike. The most common type of TENS unit comes with two electrode pads. There is another acupuncture-like TENS unit with tiny needles through which the electric current flows. Consult your doctor or physical therapist to choose the right kind of TENS unit for your specific conditions.

8. What cautions must one take when using a TENS unit?

It’s an ‘electrical machine’ which, by nature, shouts “caution”.

The electrode pads should not be placed on broken or damaged skin, for the electrical current may cause further damage to it. Do not place the electrode pads anywhere close to eyes. Also, the electrodes should not be placed over the front or side of the neck or in the mouth. The machine should be kept as far away as possible from water. Do not use it in the bath or shower or while driving or operating any kind of machinery. Always, safety first!

Featured photo credit: Wikipedia via upload.wikimedia.org

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Nabin Paudyal

Co-Founder, Siplikan Media Group

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

“Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. When tiredness is persistent, however — when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get— it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here’re some of the most common causes of fatigue:

1. Dehydration

If you want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions.

If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energising oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

You cannot cure this crash with caffeine – the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

2. Lack Of Exercise

A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of our everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

3. A Poor Diet

The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats. The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by pizza or cheese.

Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

4. Skipping Breakfast

Physician Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan advises that eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

Ingesting food signals to your brain that there is enough food available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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Some great ideas for a healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

Or if meal-prepping isn’t your think, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit: 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

5. Poor Quality Of Sleep

We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed. But did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is.

TO feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time. And before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to prepare for a restful night.

Read more about how to develop a routine that will get you better sleep: Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

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6. Sleep Apnea (A Person’s Airways Get Blocked off While They Are Asleep)

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while they are asleep. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing as well as the use of a special breathing machine to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

7. Depression

Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating.

Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling and lifestyle changes like stress management to help manage this condition. You can take a look at these 15 Ways To Overcome Depression And Sadness.

Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

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8. Hypothyroidism

If a person has hypothyroidism, their thyroid gland does not produce adequate levels of these important hormones— and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain and feeling cold all the time.

Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills like Synthroid. Check here for signs of having a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

9. Anemia

People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements or B-12 shots.

While here are some drinks you can try to relieve symptoms of Anemia, it’s best to do a blood test and consult your doctor in case of any hidden medical conditions.

10. Cancer

While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surround tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

Diagnosis is usually by biopsy and treatment often focusses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery— and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

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