Tired of having prescriptions thrown at you with no relief in sight? If you’re a wheelchair user, a TENS unit might become your best accessory, especially after you discover how many ways it may help you alleviate pain, pressure sores, and even depression.
Oh, and guys, a TENS unit may also be helpful for you in the bedroom, if you follow our drift. Learn more below!
Why We’re Educating You on Alternative Health Approaches
As a chair user, you already know how often traditional Western medicine opts to treat health issues with pills rather than resolving the root of the issue. That’s why NATURALLY ABLE aims to share more ways you can heal or resolve health issues with alternative treatments that aren’t habit-forming, won’t break the bank, and can help you find more comfort and joy in life.
We know firsthand how a TENS unit may help in those areas and hope you enjoy the practical applications we’ve listed.
What is a TENS Unit?
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It is a device that sends mild electric pulses along the skin to reduce pain and pressure or to increase blood flow. TENS units can be used to reduce acute or chronic pain, improve muscle function, and other helpful applications.
A TENS machine, a battery-operated device with leads and sticky pads known as electrodes, is small and portable. The electrodes attach to the skin directly. The machine delivers small electrical impulses to your skin, which can be felt as a tingling sensation.
Pain signals from the brain and spinal cord can be reduced by electrical impulses. This may reduce pain and help relax muscles. They can also stimulate endorphins production, which is the body’s natural painkiller.
How to Operate a TENS Unit
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using your TENS device. You can use a TENS machine while on the go or working. They are lightweight and small. It can be carried in your pocket, on your belt, or in your hand.
You can use TENS devices all day, but they should not be used while driving, operating machinery, or taking a bath or shower.
Before you attach the pads, make sure that the machine is turned off. Place the pads on either side of the pain or target area at least 2.5cm (1 in) apart.
Never place the pads over:
- the front or sides of your neck
- your temples
- your mouth or eyes
- your chest and upper back at the same time
- irritated, infected, or broken skin
- varicose veins
- numb areas
Once the pads have been attached correctly, turn on the TENS machine. You’ll begin to notice the tingling sensation through your skin. You can adjust the strength of the electric impulses by turning a dial on the machine.
You can start at a low setting, and then gradually increase the intensity until you feel a strong sensation but not uncomfortable. Reduce the intensity of the tingling sensation if it becomes painful or bothersome.
After you have finished using the TENS machine, turn it off and take the electrodes off your skin.
Using a TENS Unit to Calm Anxiety or Alleviate Depression
Did you know that a TENS Unit can activate your body’s natural relaxation system? The “relaxation” nerve, also known as the vagus nerve, stimulates the body’s parasympathetic (or “rest and digest”) nervous system. This effectively puts a halt to the body’s stress response.
The effects of vagus nerve stimulation via the ears with a TENS device have been demonstrated to affect heart rate variability, sleep quality, depression, well-being, and pain.
In this video, Dr. Taylor from the Washington Wellness Center demonstrates how he uses a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) device on his ear to stimulate his vagus nerve.
If you’d like to try this technique at home, you may need to purchase ear clips as an accessory for your existing TENS Unit. Find them at https://amzn.to/3fYEsBC.
Preventing Pressure Sores with a TENS Unit
Electrical muscle stimulation with a TENS Unit may effectively reduce the risk of pressure sores in prone patients. Pressure sores are common problems for people who have mobility challenges or are bed-bound.
Yes, this kind of electrical muscle stimulation can be applied to the gluteus maximus. This treatment may produce significant results regarding the maintenance of proper buttock shape and avoidance of skin breakdown, which may be effective in reducing the incidence of pressure sores.
Reducing Pain or Spasms with a TENS Unit
According to the University of Iowa Hospital & Health Care Clinics, a TENS unit may be used to help with many types of chronic (long-term) pain, such as:
• Arthritis or other joint pain
• Back and neck pain
• Muscle pain
• Neuropathic pain
Research has shown that a TENS unit is most helpful for chronic pain when used for at least 30 minutes while you are active. It is less effective when you are sitting still, lying down, or resting.
Maintaining Muscle Tone with a TENS Unit
Muscle atrophy is a symptom characterized by a decrease in muscle mass and can occur as a result of numerous medical conditions including paralysis and other mobility-challenging conditions. Electrical muscle stimulation delivered via a TENS unit may slow or prevent the effects of muscle atrophy by keeping weakened muscles active and building muscle tone through muscle contractions.
Enjoying Your Partner with a TENS Unit
The holy grail post-paralysis for many people is reaching that “O” moment again in the bedroom, not just for pleasure but also when trying to conceive a child with their partner. A growing number of wheelchair users, especially men, are discovering the true power of a TENS unit when it comes to achieving ejaculation.
Several years ago, New Mobility magazine published a well-researched article by sex therapist Dr. Michael Tepper who detailed the experiences of men and women who explored using a TENS unit with their partner, and shared their successes here.
The article shares, “Of the 26 men in the discussion who tried e-stim, 22 reported ejaculation. That’s a remarkable 85 percent success rate. Five people specifically mentioned using this for fertility reasons. Ten explicitly noted that it was pleasurable, and two said it was not. Two, both with complete injuries, described the experience as orgasmic.”
He writes, “Historically a TENS unit was prescribed for pain-related issues and a neuromuscular electrical stimulator (NEMS or EMS) for muscle strengthening. However, many units marketed today come pre-programmed with modes for both. Based on the various experiences shared, it doesn’t seem to matter what type of unit you use (for sexual purposes) as long as you can adjust the pulse rate, pulse width, pulse amplitude and have a continuous setting.”
However, Dr. Tepper cautions that AD is a real concern for people who have paralysis so be aware of the risks of autonomic dysreflexia while using at TENS unit.
For his personal evaluation and use, Dr. Tepper purchased a TENS unit online that arrived at his home quickly and discreetly.
“I purchased a basic two-channel TENS unit muscle stimulator — TENS 7000 — complete with one set of four electrodes, lead wires, 9-volt battery, instructions, and carrying case for under $30, delivered via Amazon,” he explains.
Buying a TENS Unit Online
You can find TENS Units in your local pharmacy, Walmart, Target and at medical supply stores, but it’s just as easy to order them online. In researching this article, our editors found a wide assortment of devices on Amazon that work wonderfully and fall into a price range of $20-$40 USD.
Medical Precautions for TENS Users
Do not use TENS if you have:
• A cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator
• Spinal cord stimulator
• In-dwelling pumps or monitors
• Any implanted metallic or electronic device
Stop using TENS and talk with your doctor or health care team if you have:
• Skin irritation (redness, rash, itching)
• Nausea (feel like you are going to throw up)
The information shared via this website is not to be construed as medical advice. Contact your healthcare provider with questions about your individual condition or health needs.