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Blood, sweat, and tears: managing period pain can be hard work (Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/5_n3X6EfRNc)
Period pain is a debilitating problem for many women - so much so that a range of solutions have been developed to assist in alleviating it. According to research by YouGov, as many as 92% of Australian women experience period pain, with 77% experiencing pain so bad that it inhibits them from doing their jobs effectively.
Menstrual cramps are painful sensations that tend to begin in the lower abdomen in the days leading up to a period. These cramps, which are also called “dysmenorrhea”, are caused by a substance called prostaglandin that makes muscles contract and shed the lining in the uterus. During this process, some women experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, and some experience worse symptoms and more pain than others.
For period pain relief, women are often told to do gentle exercise, use hot water bottles, or take a warm bath. Relaxation techniques in general are also commonly recommended, although they do not help much in controlling the pain.
Fortunately, there are a range of options when it comes to controlling and alleviating period pain. On days when it seems more difficult to get out of bed, using a TENS machine for period pain is an effective way to ease the pain and feel better on those days when going about your daily life seems all but impossible.
What is a TENS machine?
A TENS machine is a portable, battery-operated machine with adjustable pads that you can position on the body to relieve pain symptoms. As a non-invasive and drug-free method to manage period pain, these machines are the ideal solution for women who suffer from debilitating pain every month, particularly in their abdomen and back.
How do you use a TENS machine?
If you’re feeling nervous about using a TENS machine for the first time, you’ll be pleased to know that the process takes only a few steps:
- Make sure the machine is switched off and the skin is clean and dry.
- Cover the machine’s pads with conductive gel and position them around the point of pain.
- Using tape, fix the pads to the skin. This way, you’ll be able to move around while the machine is in use.
- Set the pulse rate and switch the machine on, turning up the intensity gradually.
What does a TENS machine do for you?
The primary purpose of a TENS machine is to reduce pain in the uterus by reducing inflammation in muscle fibres. The device works by sending soothing electric pulses through comfortable pads placed over the uterus to relax the muscles and suppress pain. TENS machine pulses will send signals to the brain and encourage the body to drive up the production of hormones to ease the pain naturally.
How effective are TENS machines?
While TENS machines are widely used, the effectiveness of the treatment depends on a few key factors. These include tolerance, stimulation intensity, and electrode placement. In other words, as your body gets used to the electrode sensations, the relief you feel may be diminished, an effect which is particularly likely if you use the machine at the same frequency each time.
Can a TENS unit be harmful?
Compared to many other pain relief options on the market, TENS units are considered a very safe, non-invasive method of alleviating pain and discomfort. There has been some concern that the electrodes from the machines may cause nerve damage; however, this has never been proven. TENS machines are most likely to cause harm if the user turns the machine frequency up too high, so take care when testing the settings.
How often can you use a TENS machine?
Technically, there is no clear limit to the number of times you can use a TENS machine each day, although some medical professionals recommend a maximum of three or four 30-minute sessions per day. With regular usage, many women also notice that even acute pain relief lasts longer between sessions.
When should you not use a TENS machine?
While TENS machines are generally considered to be quite safe, there are some situations in which they are not appropriate for use. For example, you should never use a TENS machine if you have a history of cancer in the past five years. These machines are also considered dangerous for people who are pregnant, those who have epilepsy or some types of heart disease, and people with pacemakers.
There are also certain parts of the body that should not be subjected to the emission of electrodes, including the head, face, throat and backbone. Even though TENS machines are great for chronic back pain relief, placing the pads straight over the bone can be harmful. The same applies if you have an injury or painful skin condition, particularly one that involves broken skin.
What are the alternatives to TENS machines?
The classic methods of pain management and relief, like over-the-counter pain medicine and heat packs, are popular alternatives to TENS machines. However, these options often come with unwanted side effects. Thanks to technological advancements, many women are now making the switch away from aspirin or ibuprofen and embracing side effect-free alternatives.
For women who prefer natural alternatives to traditional pain relief, solutions such as acupuncture, continuous passive motion, and even psychological methods can also be helpful. Still, studies have shown that TENS machines are effective in treating pain all over the body, and safer than many forms of pain medication.
Acupuncture is another natural pain relief alternative (Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/QgcdtM9rA5s)
Where can you get a TENS machine?
One of the best things about TENS machines is that they are very accessible pain relief. There’s no need to get a referral to a doctor, or even leave your home. In fact, any woman who wants to ease period pain can purchase a TENS machine online without needing to seek an appointment or medical advice.
In short, using a TENS machine is a great therapeutic, drug-free route to pain-free periods. It can help women perform their day-to-day activities well and help them to get rid of the pain.