Pain Management: Conventional Pain Killers vs. TENS
Living with pain can be hard because pain is not just an inconvenience. It can be devastating. Almost every doctor would agree that it is better to treat pain than to suffer through it. In fact, treating pain is the crucial first step towards recovery from many conditions. There are variety of options available for the treatment of chronic pain. Under the conventional category of medications there are oral and topical therapies available for chronic pain management.
Then there are treatment options available that do not involve medications.
What are the typical medications used for treatment of chronic pain?
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen, diclofenacand naproxen. Aspirin is also an NSAID. However, it is mainly prescribed (in low doses) to help to keep the blood from clotting – for example, for people who have had a heart attack in the past.
- Weak opioids and strong opioids. Examples of weak opioids include codeine and dihydrocodeine. Examples of strong opioids include morphine, oxycodone, pethidine and tramadol.
How do these medicines work?
All the three types of pain killers help fight pain. Though their purpose and result is similar, the process through which they rid the body of pain is little different from one another. However, all the painkillers work by either blocking the pain signals from traveling to the brain or by attaching to the endorphin receptors in the body; thereby increasing your tolerance to pain.
Paracetamol is targeted at the brain and it works by stopping the production of pain from the source. It reduces the production of inflammatory substances and chemicals in the brain, which are usually referred to as prostaglandins. These inflammatory chemicals can be found anywhere in the body but they are concentrated in the brain. Paracetamol can be helpful in relieving a person of pain and even fever.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs:
NSAIDs work on a chemical level. These medicines cease the production of prostaglandins just as Paracetamol, but instead of targeting the brain, they target the prostaglandins present throughout the human body. This makes them effective; however, the side effect of this type of medication is that since they target the prostaglandins in the body instead of the brain, they end up affecting the different bodily functions and organs as well.
This type of medication is something that targets the receptors in the human body. These receptors are found in the central nervous system and the gut. They are also found in some other important parts of the body. Opioids increase your tolerance for pain and they also work at reducing the pain your body is experiencing.
What are possible side effects of the pain killers?
Apart from decreasing the production of endorphins (body’s own natural pain relievers) and giving rise to dependency and withdrawal symptoms, conventional pain killers suffer from number of side effects:
Vomiting, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, reduced appetite, headache, and dizziness, rash and drowsiness.
Another alternative to conventional painkillers?
TENS is a powerful alternative to painkillers. TENS sends a gentle stimulation through the skin which stimulates the sensory nerves, and blocks the pain signal travelling up the spine to the brain. It also stimulates body’s own natural defence against pain, namely the release of endorphins.
TENS units are easy to use. They are a better alternative to pain killers for many reasons.
- Fear of dependency
Heavy duty painkillers like opioids are very effective at fighting pain and many pain sufferers depend on them to lead happy, functional lives. Often, patients become physically dependent upon these drugs.
In this area TENS is advantageous. As it doesn’t use any chemical substances such as opioids, there’s nothing addictive about a TENS machine. It works with the body’s own pain relievers – endorphins-, so it does not create any dependency.
- Overuse of painkillers can make them ineffective over time
In addition to being addictive, painkillers can also become ineffective over time. That means that many patients need to take more and more pills in order to find relief from pain which can lead to overdosing.
That’s where TENS unit steps in. As it uses electrical impulses to stimulate the body’s natural endorphins, there’s no danger of overdose. You can simply adjust the unit’s settings to accommodate your changing needs. This means that TENS unit is a long term solution in any pain management programme.
- Can be customised to suit each person’s pain needs:
Everyone does not feel pain the same way. For a similar ailment, different people feel different degree of pain. However, pain killers are designed to be one size fits all solution.
That is not the case with a TENS unit, you can programme your TENS units to meet your needs in best possible way. TENS units feature number of programmes, speed and strength options designed to help you find personalised pain relief.
- Targeted pain relief:
The problem with any prescription drug is that they affect the entire body, not just the part that hurts. If you use a drug to ease one problem, like an achy joint, it is likely to cause a different reaction somewhere else too.
With the TENS units, you can target therapy to certain areas of your body to ensure best results.