I have so many different tools and methods I use to manage my CRPS that I want to share here! It is hard to be patient and go through them one at a time. But one of my earlier tools I picked up to deal with pain was a TENS machine.
and scary than it really is. While I am actually zapping my nerves with electricity, it is at a low, controlled level. Home TENS machines are a little bigger than a deck of cards, and contain a 9V battery, and some of them can also be plugged into the wall. I have two: the LG-TEC Dual Combo from LG Med Supply, and my new InTENSity Select Combo from OTC Wholesale. I’ve had good experiences with both companies, and I’m not given any “incentives” to write about either one.
The LG-TEC has covers that protect both the front buttons and, most importantly, the top dials that change the strength of the stimulation. It is plenty powerful–I usually run mine at 5 out of 10, but that all depends out the specific person’s comfort, body, how far apart the electrodes are, and where one are using them. So if I’m getting a strong but not overwhelming tingle (to me, it feels like the pins and needles when a limb that fell asleep starts to wake up, just before they change from tingly to painful as the blood flow returns) that masks all or much of my pain, the last thing I want to do is accidentally bump the dial and give myself a painful shock! Hence, the covers being important. It has two sets of leads, so I can zap more than one area of the body, or just a bigger area than just one set of electrodes can cover. In the TENS setting, it has both a steady mode where the delivery of the electricity is constant, and several other modes where the eletricity is sent in quick pulses, changing frequencies, or waves that come and go more slowly. The frequency and modulation are very adjustable, so I can play with it to find the setting that tends to work best, or switch it up if my body gets too used to the electricity and it starts to lose its effectiveness. My model also has EMS, which is Electric Muscle Stimulation. It’s a way to activate muscles to exercise them and is often used to come back from atrophy. I’ve played with it, but generally prefer to do deliberate exercise, as it feels really weird to have my muscles moving without my control, but it’s just as tiring as running them myself.
The InTENSity is one I ordered most recently, and just recieved in the mail about a week ago. I bought it because I wanted to have a spare, and I was interested in its extra features. It has a more digital setup, but can be adjusted along the same parameters that my LG Tec can be. To prevent accidental bumps, it locks itself after a certain timespan of inactivity, and it too has two sets of leads. It has two additional types of electrotherapy: MC, or Microcurrent Exchange, is supposed to promote healing at the cellular level, although from my research its uses usually involve direct application to wounds or bones that refuse to heal, not via diffused electrode pads. IF, or Interferential therapy, is supposed to penetrate better and thus help with deeper nerves but otherwise work much like TENS. I haven’t had the time to research IF as thoroughly as the other modalities of electrotherapy. The new machine has EMS as well. I also like that the inTENSity has a wall plug, which is nice for using it in bed and not having to worry about batteries.
You now know about what TENS is and my specific machines. Tomorrow, in Part 2, you’ll read about my particular experience with TENS and ways I’ve made electrotherapy work for me. I should probably add a disclaimer in here. I am not a doctor and do not give medical advice; I am merely sharing my own personal experiences, which may or may not be similar to your own. Always ask your doctor before trying a new pain management method. There we go. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!