I was recently asked the question – can I treat neuropathy with a TENS machine?
Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition which affects the nerve endings in the body, and can be extremely painful. This is due to the fact that the damaged nerve endings send powerful signals to the brain which are received as pain signals. In fact, there is no reason for the pain signals to be triggered, but this is the unfortunate side effect of Neuropathy. The other unfortunate situation is that because the pain messages are false signals, caused by malfunctioning nerve cells, pain relief medication is not always effective. Because there is no actual cause of pain, traditional pain relief methods don’t always work. An this is where a TENS machine can offer some pain relief for sufferers of neuropathy.
What causes Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy is a degenerative condition, usually brought on by association with auto-immune type diseases, and one of the most common is diabetes. Neuropathy is also known to be associated with diseases such as Lupus, shingles, Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr virus, and even rheumatoid arthritis.
Neuropathy can also be induced by poor lifestyle choices, such as alcohol abuse, which can damage the nerve endings, particularly in the legs and feet. It is common for poor lifestyle choices to cause severe impacts on vitamin deficiencies, such as the B vitamins, which are vital for nerve health. Lifestyle choices such as alcohol abuse and Diabetes type 2 can result in neuropathy with the outcome of painful nerve damage.
What types of neuropathy are there?
The three main types of nerves that can be affected are known as the peripheral nerves, such as;
- Sensory nerves which are the nerves that govern the senses of feeling, touch, and so on;
- Motor nerves which are the nerves responsible for controlling the muscles;
- Autonomic nerves which are responsible for controlling the automatic functions of the organs, such as the heart, lungs and so on.
Peripheral Neuropathy is primarily concerned with the sensory nerves, but can also affect other functional areas of the body.
What are the Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy can include a range of indicators, in addition to the outright pain caused by the condition. Symptoms of neuropathy can include;
- Strange feeling in the hands and feet, such as tingling, pins and needles, or even numbness in those same areas
- A tightness around certain parts of the body which feels as if the blood flow is constricted
- Sharp pain from the afflicted areas
- A feeling of weakness or heaviness
- Changes in blood pressure, or feeling light headed
- Extreme sweating and discomfort even when the temperature is mild.
What are the treatment options for peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy can be a very uncomfortable disorder, and certain treatments can be better than others. Of course, it is most important that you consult your Doctor if you suspect that you have any of the symptoms of neuropathy. It is vitally important to deal with the causes of peripheral neuropathy rather than just seeking relief from the painful symptoms.
If you have diabetes, then it is important to keep blood sugar levels under control. If the condition is brought about by severe alcoholism, it is important to understand that alcohol has a toxic effect on nerves cells. It may be necessary to overcome the problem with alcohol before treatment will be effective. It will also be necessary to correct any vitamin deficiency brought about by drinking too much. If these causal factors are not brought under control, then the neuropathy will continue, and treatment options may not be effective.
Pain Relief for peripheral neuropathy – medication
The next most important factor in treating peripheral neuropathy is pain relief. Medications such as non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs are generally the most effective at controlling moderate pain. However, when the pain becomes too severe, sometimes increasing the does of these medications is simply not enough, and the side effects from the drugs can become a problem also.
In sever cases, a Doctor may prescribe stronger pain relief medication, but the effectiveness can tend to be rather limited. Either the pain relief is only temporary, which requires access to stronger drugs. On the other hand, there can be side effects from taking medication, such as opiates, which can become addictive over a longer period of time..
Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS)
Another alternative from medication for pain relief is the use of a Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation or TENS for short. A TENS machine is a drug free, pain free and relaxing way to seek relief from chronic pain. For sufferers of peripheral neuropathy, it can be one of the most effective and long term solution to pain relief. TENS therapy involves sticking the TENS electrode pads directly onto the skin, and then the TENS unit gently applies small electrical currents through the pads.
The idea behind TENS treatment is that the electrical currents interfere with the nerve signals between the site of the pain and the brain, so that the nerve signals don’t arrive and therefore the pain signal is not received by the brain. The reason that TENS therapy is so effective with peripheral neuropathy is because the nerve signals are due to malfunctioning nerves, and the messages are false because there is no actual pain.
A TENS unit is a perfectly safe and non-invasive way to treat the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, and for all sufferers of chronic pain. The ambition for using a TENS machine is to disrupt the faulty nerve signals along the path to the brain, and this is exactly how a TENS machine can help deal with the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
Of course, check with a Doctor before choosing treatment options, and to obtain an accurate diagnosis. A Doctor can also advise on the best location to apply the TENS unit. But generally, TENS machines do not require a prescription, and are safe and easy to use for relief of pain due to peripheral neuropathy.