When was the last time you heard of a new remedy for menstrual cramps? Self-heating adhesive pads? Maybe an herbal tea that a friend recommended?
Well, behind the scenes for the past few years, researchers around the globe have been studying the effect of a new kind of menstrual cramp treatment–and I’m convinced it’s going to become one of the most popular remedies used by cycling women.
What is it? Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, better known as TENS therapy.
How does TENS therapy work?
TENS therapy is administered through a small device that delivers varying pulses of low-voltage electrical current through sticky pads. It doesn’t hurt. It kind of feels like someone mildly poking and kneading you. You can adjust the pokes and kneads to be gentle or intense depending on your comfort level.
The electrical pulses ease discomfort caused by menstrual cramps by stimulating nerves in a way that scrambles pain signals to the brain.
I’ve used TENS therapy for my back–my very, very bad back. I relied on it to ease the pain of a deteriorated disc prior to spinal fusion surgery (so we’re talking a really high level of pain) and to ease a second bulging disc after surgery. And, strangely enough, this little buzzy contraption has been enough to significantly tamp down my pain, which has helped me walk, sit and sleep. I still use it whenever that bulging disc acts up.
So, if it can ease the intense pain of a broken-down back, imagine what it can do for a spasming uterus.
And, that’s exactly what researchers thought, too.
Knowing that TENS therapy has been able to bring significant relief to back, knee, neck and shoulder pain sufferers, they’ve spent years testing TENS therapy to find out if it can tame menstrual cramps, too. In numerous studies (including this, this, this and this), they found over and over that TENS therapy is an easy, effective, drug-free way to get mild, moderate and even intense cramp pain under control–and quickly, sometimes immediately.
Where can you find TENS for menstrual cramps now?
Despite the numerous studies examining TENS therapy on menstrual cramps in real, live women–without harmful side effects–it still has not officially been approved for this kind of use.
That said, if you want to try it for yourself, there are a couple of easy-to-use options:
There’s the palm-sized, all-in-one, butterfly-shaped TENS unit that includes two sticky pads on either side of a simple control panel, such as the Icy Hot Smart Relief TENS Therapy (available at drugstores and Amazon).
Or you can use a unit that includes more than two sticky pads–so you can place them in specific spots–along with a separate handheld control panel that gives you more function options, such as the Santamedical Electronic TENS Unit (available at Amazon).
Since TENS therapy is not yet an officially approved treatment for menstrual cramp pain, it’s wise to ask your healthcare provider (such as your primary care physician, gynecologist or nurse practitioner) for the go-ahead first before trying it yourself.
And, as with most pain treatments (and, really, everything in life), there are certain restrictions to heed: People with pacemakers, epilepsy, high blood pressure and heart problems should not use TENS therapy. Never use it on your head or face. And, if you feel any pain or burning, obviously you should stop using it. If you’re pregnant (I know, I know, if you’re using this for menstrual cramps, you’re pretty sure you’re not pregnant, but still, let’s get this disclaimer out of the way), don’t use TENS therapy unless a doctor directs you to.
If you’ve tried TENS therapy for menstrual cramps in the past or you try it for the first time, let me know what you think of it.
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