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An Almanac For The 21st Century

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Improve a Bad Situation With This Pain Reducing Gadget

Improve a Bad Situation With This Pain Reducing Gadget

2019 has been a year of trying new arthritis medications to slow the deterioration of my joints, which I’m happy to pursue, but I’m now about to try drug number three and I’m… tired. My hands hurt (where the joint erosion is most noticeable) but I’ve also been dealing with some raging low back pain, which I haven’t had to manage in quite some time. I have all kinds of tricks for controlling pain, but one of my favorite back pain treatments is a TENS unit.

What I look like on the outside vs what I feel like on the inside.

What I look like on the outside vs what I feel like on the inside.

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Wikipedia describes TENS therapy as “the use of electric current produced by a device to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes.” The Cleveland Clinic does a better job of answering, “Why?” by stating, “Electrodes or mediums for electricity to travel to the body, placed on the body at the site of pain deliver electricity that travels through the nerve fibers. The electric currents block the pain receptors from being sent from the nerves to the brain.” Finally, here’s how I would describe it: When you are in certain kinds of pain, your muscles tense up, which then causes more pain. Slap a TENS unit on your back (or wherever) and it will send electrical jolts into your aches, which shocks your body into calming the fuck down. Then you and your loose muscles and desensitized nerves can get a BREAK, FINALLY.

This is what an old-school at-home TENS unit looks like. It’s cheaper, but a bit fiddly.

This is what an old-school at-home TENS unit looks like. It’s cheaper, but a bit fiddly.

TENS therapy has been around, according to Wikipedia, since 63 AD when ancient Romans would “stand on electrical fish at the seashore.” Within my lifetime, TENS units were devices provided by a doctor, and you’d attach little pads to your skin at the site of pain, which were attached by wires to the unit where you controlled the intensity and time of your treatment. This is all well and good, but not super convenient. Manufacturers realized this too, and developed OTC TENS units that were wireless and remote controlled. They are AMAZING.

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I have one of these units called Aleve Direct Therapy. It’s discontinued now, but there is one by WiTouch that is virtually identical, but BETTER. Both units are made for placement on the low back, with pads that sit on either side of your spine. The cordless unit attaches via these sticky pads, that can be used multiple times before needing replacement. If you’re say, wearing high waisted leggings, or using the TENS unit while lying down, that will extend the life of the sticky pads as well.

The Aleve Direct Therapy unit is battery powered and you control the strength of the pulses via a tiny remote control. The WiTouch unit is controlled via an app on your phone. It has more levels of intensity and four separate pain relief programs. The app can also track how you’re using the TENS unit, so you can track your pain and treatment.

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I bought my Aleve unit about three or four years ago, for $50. Again, it’s discontinued. The newer, fancier WiTouch unit is $80, which seems like a great deal. Who knows, by now if the Aleve unit was still available, the price could have gone up to $80.

I still have my Aleve Direct Therapy unit, and because I have never lost anything (only someone who has NEVER lost anything can make such a definitive statement), it’s not necessary for me to upgrade to the (cooler, more convenient) WiTouch unit. The remote, though, is tiny, and I could see how the majority of people would misplace it within two minutes of owning it. HOWEVER, I love a gadget, and I like all the different pain relief programs this WiTouch unit has. So… I may buy one and try it out. Either way, if you have some niggling pain in your low back that isn’t helped by much, for less than $100 you can get a nifty gizmo that actually works to help relieve pain.

Oh, and if this weren’t already clear: I’m not a doctor. Don’t go trying some wild treatment some internet person suggested. If you have severe pain, talk to a MEDICAL DOCTOR. But maybe also ask them about a TENS unit, because these shits are the real deal.

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