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Old 01-17-2007, 07:13 PM   #1
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Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

I had my first PT today and the therapist was very surprised that my doctor has no problem with my still being on Vicodin. I'm not concerned about becoming addicted, and he isn't either, as i weaned myself down on the Percocet and asked for something less strong, then slowly weaned myself down on the Vicodin, too. I stopped it altogether for a few days, but I started hurting more and my doctor told me I was expecting too much of myself to be off it completely. I'm 15 weeks post op. He told me I may need to continue to take it for the rest of my life, or something else stronger than NSAIDS. I'm taking 2-3 Vicodins a day at this point.

The therapist said her concern was that the Vicodin would stop being effective after I've been on it for some time. She wants to talk to my doctor about getting me a Tens Unit.

Can someone please give me the basics on a Tens Unit? How is it used? Does it eliminate the need for pain meds? Will I get used to it so it would lose its effectiveness, too, just like the Vicodin? And is that true, that the Vicodin will eventually lose its effectiveness? If the Vicodin is able to control the pain, is there any benefit to switching to a Tens?

Thanks for whatever info y'all can give me.

~Emily

 
Old 01-17-2007, 07:40 PM   #2
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

Emily:

Sorry you're going through so much pain. A TENS unit basically (through sticky electrode patches placed on the skin around the painful area) send electrical impulses into the nerves around that area that block pain impulses being transmitted to the brain. You're still hurting - you're brain just doesn't realize it and you don't feel it. It does help relax the muscles somewhat too. I have a TENS unit and I still take pain meds, although I take fewer thanks to the TENS unit. I'm not a big pain med fan, so I prefer cranking up the TENS to being blitzed out of my mind on drugs. The TENS unit affects just the area affected, not your whole body (systemically) like drugs do.

I'm not an expert, but I believe your body could get used to the Vicodin somewhat and you'd need higher and higher doses to achieve the same pain relieve. That's why I think a combination of the TENS unit with pain medication could be the answer for you. I think this is why a lot of people get hooked on higher and higher doses of stronger and stronger pain meds (including Percocet and Oxycontin) - because lower doses stopped working. As you can tell, I'm a big believer in the TENS unit - the key is to have the therapist teach you precisely where to put the electrodes so you'll achieve optimal pain relief. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor and therapist questions and make them explain it to you until you understand.

Keep us posted when and if you get your TENS unit.

Take care -

Mary

 
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Old 01-17-2007, 08:39 PM   #3
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

[COLOR="DarkOrange"]HI Emily & Rusty,
I have had my tens unit for sometime now, it did help so much about 2 months after my last two fusions, with the nerve healing pains I had in my leg & foot. You have a long way to go being just 15 wks post op, you should lose alot of your pain as time passes. Are you on any nerve pain meds like neurontin or lyrica? I'm assuming your having nerve pain? please correct me if i'm wrong. It shoudldhelp you reduce your dosages if it helps your type of pain.

I can only praise the tens unit also, it did help me not have the higher doses of vicodin. Sadly my nerve damage has turned out to be permanent and has increased the past few months.

I am just pulling out the tens unit again to see how it handles my nerve pain now, worst case is it doesn't help, no damage done by trying it. You can look up an electrode placemant map on the net that may give you some idea what we mean, I place mine just below my knee on inner & outer part and then the other two on each side of my foot, the pain I have is mainly between those areas.

Good luck if you get one, you might want to ask your doc to prescribe you the one with the auto timer so you dont' have to watch the clock when using it.

Let us know how it goes.

God Bless

Carol[/COLOR]
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Old 01-17-2007, 11:30 PM   #4
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

I used the TENS for almost 2 years. I only took it off to go to bed. What started to happen was that my body was getting use to it so before the surgery it was to the highest amount. The therapist said it could happen. They are not as strong as the stim machine. It should not be in place of pain meds. For me it took the edge off the pain.

 
Old 01-18-2007, 05:05 AM   #5
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

I still have mine , it's getting repaired right now , seems like the program or battery dies all the time . It helps me for about 15 minutes then the pain is back. I crank the baby up as far as it goes and for as long as I want. Plus I still take my percocet and morphine( yuk) It may help you , everyones different ,

Hope it works for ya , I wish I could throw theses meds out the door to.

 
Old 01-18-2007, 06:36 AM   #6
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

[QUOTE=shawley;2749468]
Hope it works for ya , I wish I could throw theses meds out the door to. [/QUOTE]


I would hang onto them you never know if you might need them. LOL!!

I understand exactly what you are saying but I think I will be having them around for awhile especially after surgery from what I am reading.

 
Old 01-18-2007, 03:37 PM   #7
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

Thank you so much, everyone, for helping me understand this better!

I do have a small amount of nerve pain, but it's sporadic and unpredictable, except that it's more likely while driving or if I walk some distance without a cane. I think most of my pain is muscle pain, along with some that's just from pressure on my bones at weird angles (if that makes any sense). The jury's still out on how much my pain will be helped by this surgery. My surgeon said he could only promise that he could stop it from getting worse, but he had hopes that he could also reduce the pain. Until I get back into "real life," I won't know. But I'm already feeling some of the same old pain around my whole right side sometimes and can't sit for longer than about 40 minutes without having a lot of pain set in. That might be permanent, since my fusion is so long.

If the Tens Unit is mainly for nerve pain, I think I'd be better off staying on the pain meds. I'd be willing to give it a try, though. I'll try anything reasonable that might help. I'm a bit discouraged and wondering if it's time to apply for disability. From what I've read on the disability board, though, it seems like I'm not bad off enough yet.

Anyway, I do appreciate the input. Thanks!

~Emily

 
Old 01-18-2007, 09:10 PM   #8
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

[COLOR="DarkOrange"]Emily,
Hi, any pain your having has to travel thru your nerves to get the pain message to your brain so if your in pain it may help. Not only nerve damage pain but any pain can benefit from this unit. Don't write it off so fast it may be worth the time to try it, it can't hurt anyway.

Good LUck!

God Bless

Carol[/COLOR]
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Old 01-18-2007, 09:45 PM   #9
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

Emily:

Carol is right on the nerve pain thing. I am the QUEEN of nerve pain, having a damaged nerve root due to long term compression. I went the Neurontin route, and was taking very large doses with only minimal relief (but major side effects - essentially I was a walking bowl of oatmeal). The TENS unit greatly helped my nerve pain, so I would definitely give it a try.

Mary

 
Old 01-19-2007, 06:02 AM   #10
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

[COLOR="Blue"][SIZE="3"]RustyGurl , I don't like to preach injections , I never believed in them until it worked for me. I have L5 damage or somthing , thats where my pain is comming from my L5 ,well the good doctor recomend a select nerve root injection on my L5 , at first I thought he was just money hungry like most Dr. I decided to give it a go and low and behold my leg and feet pain was 80 % better. But the injections are only anestetic and last for a short time. BUT you can get as many as you need. Maybe you should ask your Dr. about this injection. Trust me I didn't think any injection was going to work on me , I had epidurals and Facet injections and none worked.

I know everyones different , but I would look into this. Good Luck[/SIZE][/COLOR]

 
Old 01-19-2007, 09:20 AM   #11
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

Shawley:

I too tried the injections (several rounds of epidurals, including one x-ray guided) and a medial branch nerve block. The injections actually made my condition worse, as they put more pressure on the damaged nerve root. The only analgesic effect I received lasted a few hours at best, then the pain came roaring back. After those injections, a myelogram and a discogram, I am not inclined to let them put any more needles in my back. Just thinking about it gives me the willies.

Injections do work for some people - they just didn't work for me. I'll stick with my TENS unit and a moderate amount of medication.


 
Old 01-19-2007, 09:26 AM   #12
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

[COLOR="Blue"]To my profession , injections will work if placed in the right spot. I had so many failures to. I screamed when my Dr. wanted to try the selective injection , I had bad experiences with epidurals / Facet injection and yes I had myelograms too. but myelogram is to find the problem not to numb it. I just think if your Dr. finds the right nerve thats bothering you he can numb it. I have to go back to the Dr. who found the bad L5 root because he worked a miracle on me. It was under fluorscope and the new doc couldn't get it.[/COLOR][QUOTE=Rustysgurl;2751839]Shawley:

I too tried the injections (several rounds of epidurals, including one x-ray guided) and a medial branch nerve block. The injections actually made my condition worse, as they put more pressure on the damaged nerve root. The only analgesic effect I received lasted a few hours at best, then the pain came roaring back. After those injections, a myelogram and a discogram, I am not inclined to let them put any more needles in my back. Just thinking about it gives me the willies.

Injections do work for some people - they just didn't work for me. I'll stick with my TENS unit and a moderate amount of medication.

[/QUOTE]

 
Old 01-19-2007, 10:29 AM   #13
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

A statement was made that you can get the injections of steroid as often as you like as long as you like. That is simply not true, as the steroids can and will have side effects such as bone thinning, muscle loss, and more. I believe it was Shawley who made the statement.....no one should have more than 3 injections that include steroids in a years time tho there are doctors who subscribe to the notion it is okay to have 3 in 6 months. That goes against common wisdom.

Carol
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Old 01-19-2007, 10:50 AM   #14
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

[COLOR="Red"]Carol where have you read that ? Steroids are terrible for your body , I stated you can get selective nerve root injection as many times as you need because they only have anestetic in them , no steroids in mine. Sorry If I misformed anyone. You can only have 3 steroids a year as I'm told.

Have a great day [/COLOR][QUOTE=carol632;2751970]A statement was made that you can get the injections of steroid as often as you like as long as you like. That is simply not true, as the steroids can and will have side effects such as bone thinning, muscle loss, and more. I believe it was Shawley who made the statement.....no one should have more than 3 injections that include steroids in a years time tho there are doctors who subscribe to the notion it is okay to have 3 in 6 months. That goes against common wisdom.

Carol[/QUOTE]

 
Old 01-19-2007, 10:53 AM   #15
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Re: Does a Tens Unit mean no pain meds?

[COLOR="Red"][SIZE="3"]Is this it ? Read carefully. I don't want to confuse anyone[/SIZE][/COLOR][QUOTE=shawley;2751514][COLOR="Blue"][SIZE="3"]RustyGurl , I don't like to preach injections , I never believed in them until it worked for me. I have L5 damage or somthing , thats where my pain is comming from my L5 ,well the good doctor recomend a select nerve root injection on my L5 , at first I thought he was just money hungry like most Dr. I decided to give it a go and low and behold my leg and feet pain was 80 % better. But the injections are only anestetic and last for a short time. BUT you can get as many as you need. Maybe you should ask your Dr. about this injection. Trust me I didn't think any injection was going to work on me , I had epidurals and Facet injections and none worked.

I know everyones different , but I would look into this. Good Luck[/SIZE][/COLOR][/QUOTE]

 
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