TENS users - help please

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TENS users - help please

Postby *Hope* » Sat Sep 17, 2011 2:07 pm

Hey guys! My doc prescribed a TENS unit for the post-op neck pain that seems to only get worse. I'm on meds, but don't want to keep upping them. You know what I mean?

Anyway, the problem is that it freaking HURTS! Anything over a 2 feels strong (like a shocking pain) and anything over 2.5 makes the muscles spasm in such a severe way that my husband can actually SEE the muscles seize up. Doc said some people use it around a 16 on constant stim for the whole day. I can start to feel it at 1.5, 2 is uncomfortable, and 2.5 is painful. Shouldn't there be a happy medium? I got the impression that 1.5 wouldn't help the problem and that I should be able to handle more stimulation than that. ???

This happened when I was in PT and they kept telling me that the e-stim should feel so good "like a massage." I counted down the minutes for them to turn off the machine. I'm trying to use the TENS in hopes that it will relieve some of this pain and spasming that I'm experiencing. I don't want to give up on it too quickly, but it seems to make things worse. I took a few days off of it because it seemed to be making the nerves angry.

My question is how much stimulation can you use and do you think this is unusual? If you have neck pain, then where do you place your pads? Doc said to move them around until I found something that works, and I'm not having much luck on my own here. I'm frustrated and wondering if you have any tips on placement, settings, or ANY advice you can give me.

Thanks so much for reading and I appreciate any help. I hope you guys are OK today.

Oh, and I have a titanium plate if that matters. I dont think it does, but you never know with these things. ;)
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Re: TENS users - help please

Postby jfreema » Sat Sep 17, 2011 4:43 pm

I've always flared with TENS and can't use one. I hope you feel better soon!
Pre-Op: SM C2-T4 (2mm C2 to C5, 6 mm C5 to T1, 2 mm T1 to T2, 7 mm T2 to T4), CM 8 mm
PFD surgery May 2010
Post-Op: Syrinx has completely disappeared - no evidence at all!
Surgeon: Dr. John Heiss at the NIH
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Re: TENS users - help please

Postby June » Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:26 pm

This doesn't sound right, Hope. It has been awhile since I used a TENS unit, but I'm pretty sure they aren't supposed to hurt. My problem was that it did me no good--not enough stimulation. Is the unit working correctly? Maybe the settings aren't right--meaning something mechanical may be wrong. And what about the titanium plate. That might be a problem, depending on its location.

Double check with the doc. DON"T hurt yourself. And good luck. Maybe a good massage would soften things up a bit. Also, I've discovered a topical NSAID, a salve or gel, called Voltaren, which helps my neck when it gets in a mess. It does require a prescription, but oh my, does it help my neck!!! It is actually my husband's, so I haven't asked my doc for a script. I rub it on my neck, and in about 10 minutes, I feel great improvement.

I hope you get some relief.

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Re: TENS users - help please

Postby karenb » Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:48 am


This definitely doesn't sound right to me.

I've had two different TENS machines over the past 20 years:

  • The first was a small unit designed for use on the face and head. It didn't do much - it didn't help, but it also didn't hurt.
  • The current machine is a combination TENS & Electric Stim machine, and it is heavenly. I use it on my neck & shoulders (it's designed for use on the back and legs as well, but I haven't learned how to use it there yet). I normally use the TENS function in the 30-40 range, and it's wonderful. The electric stim function is more variable - sometimes I get visible jumping of the muscles, but it usually helps me a lot in the 10-13 range.
Good luck! I hope things get better.

Last edited by karenb on Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TENS users - help please

Postby birdlover3 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:10 am

I've used several TENS in the past few years. Like mentioned above, it should NOT hurt. Did your TENS unit come with an instruction booklet? It should describe the ways to adjust your TENS unit.

My physical therapist told me to cut it up to where it's uncomfortable & then cut it down just a little to a level that's comfortable.

I started having Shigles. My PM doctor told me the TENS unit was causing me to have shingles. I don't use a TENS unit during or after a shingles breakout.

If you're still having pain after adjusting your TENS unit, please call your doctor's office. For pain, it's trial and error. What works for most does not work for all.

Good luck.
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