Electrotherapy for chronic pain

The biggest breakthrough I have had with reducing pain has been through electrotherapy.

Some doctors jump to thinking I am referring to TENS therapy. When I was experiencing severe pain in 1991 I trialled a TENS machine. It only produced another sensation on top of the pain. I tried once again a few years later with exactly the same results. I am unequivocal that for my type of condition TENS produces no benefit. If it is working for you then your condition or your pain differs from my chronic myofascial pain.

A lot of new devices using electrical current have emerged more recently. The difficulty as a patient is finding how to gauge their suitability without being able to personally trial them before making a decision to buy. This can be an expensive exercise because the various claims for pain relief are so tempting.

I will tell you what I have found to be effective in reducing pain. The first discovery was a very reasonable price and was so helpful that I would have been prepared to pay a lot more. This set me off on the path of using electrotherapy and I now have 4 therapeutic devices which I use according to different situations or different parts of my body. One is a unit which lasts 300 hours before it needs to be totally replaced and the other 3 involve the on-going cost of purchasing lead wires, electrodes, batteries. I will describe and assess some of the strengths and weaknesses of the 4 devices so that you can decide according to your own circumstances if any are suitable.

There is actually a website http://www.electrotherapy.org/ which has a medical basis and provides research articles for the different modalities of electrotherapy. I wish I had known about the studies and the publications that are listed on this site. Perhaps some of the doctors would not have reacted with such scepticism when I told them about the wonderful pain relief I obtained from the first electrotherapy unit I used. Only about 5 years ago I asked a specific pain specialist whether he or his colleagues at a pain clinic had ever encountered any medical literature that suggested  microcurrent was an effective way of treating chronic pain. He was very dismissive, said that the device was likely to have produced a placebo effect and challenged me to find the medical proof myself! It is a strange world when patients need to convince doctors through accessing and filtering the research themselves.

This is partly the driving force behind this blog – if I had only listened to the doctors (and most have been very compassionate) there really was very little that could be done about the pain besides management with medication and exercise. I am very grateful to avail myself of these two methods but I would have led a very diminished life if that was all there was on offer.  I will write about exercise at a later date as it is a significant tool in pain reduction.

Actually no one thing, even electrotherapy, is THE answer to pain. It’s like having a toolkit and I bring out of the kit whatever helps most with whatever I am trying to do… as I write this I am standing up because I want to avoid aggravating the pain in my right buttock – it’s the oldest trick in the kit, common sense tells me to avoid sitting!

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