Using TENS to Relieve Menstrual Cramp Pain
by Dr. Colleen Grine, PT
If you or someone you know suffers from moderate to severe menstrual cramps, you understand that in some cases, nothing seems to help. At times, the pain is so debilitating that a woman may even miss work or school to deal with her painful, cramping symptoms.
The syndrome is known as dysmenorrhea and characterized by lower abdominal pain, back pain, and other systemic issues like headache or nausea. Dysmenorrhea is a common condition affecting over 50% of menstruating women on a regular basis. Some women may have associated conditions, like endometriosis, or heavy bleeding, that contribute to significant pain and cramping.
Up until now, most women turned to heating pads, analgesics like ibuprofen, or just rest, to deal with the extreme discomfort. But now, an innovative treatment is gaining momentum in women’s health called TENS, which stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
How can TENS help Period Cramps?
In effect, a TENS unit delivers calibrated electrical impulses to the body through small electrodes strategically placed on the skin. The low voltage electrical impulses, which can feel like vibrations, buzzing, or tingling, work to block pain signals to the brain resulting in immense symptom relief.
Science explains that endorphins cascade and release during TENS treatment which optimizes a feeling of well-being, quickly leading to feeling and moving better. Offering fast relief, many women feel renewed and energized with treatment.
Additionally, electrical stimulation can positively impact muscle cramping and tightness by inducing a muscular relaxation around a painful area. When something hurts, in this case the deep cramping uterus, surrounding musculature tightens to guard the painful area which leads to a cycle of muscular dysfunction.
A TENS unit can interrupt that cycle by delivering electrical impulses to promote muscle relaxation. By blocking the cramping pain, muscles relax helping most women additional relief with TENS applied to the target area.
What Are the Target Areas to Treat with TENS for Period Cramps?
In general, the target areas to treat with TENS are the areas that cause pain. Most women feel either a nagging low back pain, lower abdominal pain, or a combination of the two.
In like manner, electrode pad placement for pain closer to the lower back should be just above the buttocks as shown in the image above. If the pain is more concentrated toward the front, electrodes can be placed on the lower abdomen, just below and to the sides of the navel as shown in the image below.
If pain feels all-encompassing, electrodes can be attached to both areas simultaneously, creating a front-to-back pain interruption. This is where a dual channel TENS unit comes in handy, allowing the treatment of two areas separate areas at once.
Benefits of Using TENS for Period Pain
There are many benefits to using TENS to address period pain and cramping. Unlike other modalities, most TENS units are small, portable, and discreet. Women can swiftly attach electrodes to the target areas, slip the small unit into a pocket, and go about their day without interruption. In fact, all wires and electrodes easily remain under clothing, allowing the treatment to work without drawing unwanted attention. By using a dual channel unit, they can feel immense relief thanks to the ability to simultaneously treat relieve symptoms in the front and the back of the body.
Important to note:
- Electrodes should always have some distance between them during application.
- Only place electrodes over healthy, intact skin.
- Certain conditions such as pregnancy, cancer, and implantable pacemakers are incompatible with TENS treatment.
To find out more about how TENS treatment offers a discreet, non-pharmaceutical, effective means of managing menstrual pain, feel free to give us a shout for more information.
The Cureve Team