What is a TENS unit?
The TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit is actually a small battery-operated device that provides electric stimulation to the affected joints and limbs of migraine headache sufferers. The word “Transcutaneous” means “passing through the skin.”
There are a few rationales or ideas as regards to how this treatment really works. Some involve releasing of endorphins, activating the acupuncture meridian pathways, or probably over stimulation of the nerve endings. Since all pain messages need to be related to the brain, if the stimulator produces an intense sensation of pressure and numbness, this numbness message will first arrive at the brain, and effectively block the pain messages that is being carried in on small fibers. This is known as the “gating theory” of pain management.
Although the TENS therapy may not be really effective for acute headache pain, it has been proven to be a relatively effective and safe therapy for the muscle contraction component of headache disorders. Additionally, those patients who suffers from jaw joint discomfort (TMJ), which acts as one trigger for headache disorders, can be effectively treated with these TENS pads which are placed directly over the muscles that surrounds the jaw joints.
However if your body has a cardiac pacemaker or any electric rhythm disturbance or you have cancer, you will need to first discuss with your physician on the feasibility of using electrical stimulation therapy. In addition, since the concept of using electric stimulation on pregnant women is rather mixed, it is advisable for pregnant women to seek their doctors’ advice as to whether the TENS unit for migraine is appropriate for them.
The TENS unit, which looks similar to a pager, comes as a battery pack with attached sticky electrodes. These sticky electrodes are attached to pads which are then applied to the joints and muscles around the neck and head. However if you are living in a hot tropical climate, have oily skin or tend to sweat easily, the pads may sometimes not stick very well hence you may not really obtain the desired therapeutic result.
The TENS unit are available for rental commercially through suppliers and may also be available from the physiotherapy department in most major hospitals. Pharmacists or doctors can help in locating the sources of TENS unit either for purchase or for rental.
Sol TENS unit
There is also available a new version of the electric stimulator which is called the Sol TENS. The Sol TENS is a hand-held electric stimulator device. There are many patients who seem to like this device more than the traditional unit, as they can be more active participants in their migraine pain management. The Sol TENS is a probe allowing users to pick up joint and muscle triggers in and around the neck and head. It can also be applied over the jaw, the temple muscles or over the base of the skull. The Sol TENS unit is accompanied by a booklet that provides acupressure and meridian information to help increase its effectiveness. Many patients really feel comfortable using this small device (which can easily fit into a purse or a pocket) rather than medications which comes with side effects.
Initially there were many skeptical physician who doubted the effectiveness of the Sol TENS unit however eventually they have seen that the Sol TENS probe really does indeed find the muscle trigger.
It was found that after using the Sol TENS unit for three or four stimulation episodes, the probe will no longer find these active triggers, mainly because they will be gone. There are many patients who claim they find significant relief from the usage of this device, and research by the Food and Drug Administration also do back up such claims. It has also been determined that this TENS device does work for musculoskeletal and myofascial pains. This is just one more example of new medical and biotechnology treatments that will become more effective, user-friendly and appropriate for treating acute migraine and headache pain syndromes.