Why didn't the TENS unit work instead of opioids? — Scope | Disability forum
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Why didn't the TENS unit work instead of opioids?

Mike_321 Member Posts: 2 Listener
edited August 2019 in Cerebral palsy
I tried out a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) because of lower back pain and it didn’t work at all for me, I just thought it was annoying. Why didn't it help me? What reasons could there be? I really thought it would work so I could stop taking opioids.Anyone who have the same experience?


  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,557 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @Mike_321 and a warm welcome to the community! 

    I'm sorry the TENS machine didn't help you. Did you try different settings? This might be down to the pain you have. I hope other members will be able to share their experiences with you. :)

  • zakblood
    zakblood Member Posts: 419 Pioneering
    what model was it?, a cheap and nasty online one, or a expensive proper one?

    had 2 in the past, 20 years DWP survivor so have almost tried everything and while the £30 one was ok for me, it was no where near as powerful as the £80 to £100 models i've borrowed off friends.

    acupuncture worked well for me, but long term same as a chiropractor, the cost was too high for the results, so if money is no object, there are better ways.,

    better high end TENS machines are better than the lower cost cheaper low powered amazon and ebay models, offer lots, but do little overall, then again some even get results from these so read the reviews and make your own mind up, for everyone it helps 9 times plus say other wise, so it all depends on the mind and the end user i'd guess, for me it's 20 years of tablet use, and now i'm better, well backs ok, bone wise, but muscles are way too weak and will need 2 to 3 years of physiotherapy to strengthen and mend long term poor use and bad posture so what ever you go for, research and trial and error.

    exercise is as good as anything, overall the body will mend most of the time with time and good luck, but not everything is so simple, the back is complex, but the mind is the master of control, once you have a weakness, the mind reminds you it's there for a reasons, but sometimes the mind remembers the problem for too long, then you will or could have the muscle issues like me.

    like everything regarding medical issues, ask the GP and doctor first, or a specialist and see what there opinion is on any given subject, on any given matter, as while people like me have experience of it, no real knowledge is ever always right from the likes of me but could be totally wrong for you.
  • April2018mom
    April2018mom Posts: 2,868 Connected
    Welcome to Scope!
    What model do you use? As with any other product, I strongly recommend you do some research beforehand. How much did you pay for it? I used one in the past. Mind over matter is my motto however. This page has more information on the different brands available https://www.thegoodbody.com/what-is-the-best-tens-unit/
    Also do some exercise. Find a exercise class and sign up. It is a good way of making friends for life too. 
    Regarding your issues- talk to a specialist and your GP for advice. Ask for their perspective. See what suggestions might be useful overall as well. 
  • jaja
    jaja Member Posts: 76 Pioneering
    Hello @Mike_321

    I have had mixed results with Tens machines. I agree with @zakblood they are all very different. I have tried wonderful ones and one that just hurt regardless of the setting so it could just be that one machine.

    Another idea might be that the pads were placed in just the wrong place. I know someone who had been using a tens machine for many years and received good relief but after a visit to the pain clinic found just tweaking the position of the pads increased the effectiveness.

    Did you receive any pain relief when first using it? If you did it could be that your brain tunes out the sensations the machine makes. Apparently that is a thing and to stop it from happening don't keep it on but use it in small bursts so ten minutes on and then ten off. This is secondhand advice from the pain clinic.

    Oh and if you haven't you might consider acupuncture for pain. 

    Take care

  • April2018mom
    April2018mom Posts: 2,868 Connected
    There are other pain control options. I was seen by a pain management doctor and clinic too. They ran tests to see what the pain was like. I also tried out distraction techniques and psychological therapy.
    Exercise also helped me. Have you tried mediation and mindfulness? It is a tried and tested way of reducing pain. Some support groups have sessions where you can chat about your experiences with other people. That may be worth exploring too.
    What about keeping a pain diary of symptoms? Everyone has pain, you need to manage it efficiently. 
  • Mike_321
    Mike_321 Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I don't remember exactly what type, I think it was a high end tens, i tried it out with my doctor and physiotherapist. When we turned it up on really high levels (or how I should describe it?) it helped a little bit but mostly the TENS machine made it hard for me to relax, because it felt uncomfortable and annoying.

    I think I would've been more clear about my situation in the beginning. I suffer from a serious neuromuscular disease, Duchenne muscle dystrophy so I'm in a wheelchair almost completly paralysed so unfortunately that makes it impossible for me to exercise. I also suffered from scoliosis and because of that they operated the whole spine and pelvis many years ago. I assume the pain has something to do with the surgery. The pain is located in he pelvis area then the pain shoots down into the legs just under the butt, Because of that I most sit on the wires and pads, not so comfortable. Just hope my doctor also have other ideas.
  • jaja
    jaja Member Posts: 76 Pioneering

    I can't imagine sitting on the pads and wires. That must be really painful. I don't think TENs works for everyone. I used it in the past for a back issue and it worked really well but with the current situation I can't use it because it is painful.

    I hope you find something that does work. I'm sure you know this but if the pain can't be controlled by the GP they can refer to a pain clinic although you might already be seeing them.

    My condition is very different to yours so not sure the following will work but I have tried acupuncture. It works if when the therapist is good. I find relaxation helps in the moment and I'm currently trying meditation. I'm not very good at it so can't vouch for how effective it is but others on the forum have found it useful.

    take care

  • deb74
    deb74 Member Posts: 777 Pioneering
    I used a tens machine a few years ago can't remember what I paid for it. It didn't help at all with the pain but they might work for some people!
  • TomW
    TomW Member Posts: 1 Listener
    For those that it works for and those that it doesn't, it just goes to show you how differently our bodies respond to different sorts of treatment. The PlayMakar wireless EMS/TENS has been helpful, especially post workout since I don't notice as much soreness. Your mileage may vary. 


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