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I've had suggestion from both my neurologist at Vandy and the Vandy Pain Mgt Clinic to try TENS therapy. I've gotten a machine, a TENS 7000, which has far too many options to just shoot in the dark at settings. Has anyone tried this and with what sort of settings?

  1. Byron-morgan - A few things here to address if I may:

    Pain management doctors are not well versed in Migraine, and may not be the best option for you if you are having trouble getting hold of good management for them. Can you find and utilize a Migraine specialist who will be more well-versed in helping you?

    TENS units are often prescribed by pain doctors in an attempt to help their patients deal with the pain of their attacks. Remember though, a Migraine attack isn't a pain disorder. It's a neurological disorder. Attacking the attack itself is really the best way to get control over the situation. A TENS is designed to cause a disruption in the pain pathway, but it doesn't do anything for your attack.

    TENS units will sometimes be helpful to some patients for a while. Many patients find that they aren't helpful forever though. Eventually, the Migraine attack wins out.

    There are different TENS units made by different companies. All are a little different. You should have received a physician or therapist's demonstration and instructions with your unit so you know where to place the leads and how to adjust it. Most units have an adjustment for intensity of stimulation as well as different pulse patterns. As with all things Migraine, it is usually recommended to start low and go slowly. Please, please get instructions from your doctor though. There are certain points where it is possible to mistakenly put the leads that can cause serious problems, even death.


    1. I have two different TENS units. I have Complicated Migraines, which usually last between 15- 20 days. This is much better than before the beginning of my treatment when it was 30-40 days! My TENS machines has 8 settings of various pulse rhythms and helps me with my neck. When I have these long spells of migraine, my neck muscles lock up to where my shoulders feel like they are up by my ears. That pain is almost as bad as the pain in my head. The TENS doesn't really help with the migraine per say, but it helps with the neck pain. I use two settings, the acupuncture and the massage setting on one. The other is too cryptic and the pulses hurt more than help. As Ellen said, this is nothing to mess with and because it is electronic pulses you have to be very careful where on the body to use it. YOU CAN NOT use it on your head or close to the base of the skull. My Neuro showed me how to use the machine he prescribed, and it came with great detailed instructions including diagrams of the body and acupressure points for various pains (I also have degenerative disk and lower back pain, knee pain, etc). However, the machine I bought at walgreens as a backup came with very little instructions. If it weren't for my doctor and the booklet with the other machine, I'd be going blind with it and could hurt myself! I also do not like the machine from walgreens and am returning it. This is just my experience and opinion, though.

      1. debidale

        Thank you so much for telling us about your TENS experience. Every experience helps others in their decisions about how they want to handle their own options. When I got my TENS unit, there was almost no information on using them for Migraine.

        In my case, it was prescribed by my doctor. There are different types of TENS units made by different manufacturers, and it DOES matter - they are different. So, my first suggestion is, if one isn't quite doing it for you, consider another brand. Usually you get a couple of months to try them out before purchasing one. This gives the opportunity to return it and give another one a go.

        When my unit arrived, I was instructed by my physical therapist how to use it. This was great, because my PT is much less busy than my doctor, and I can go and see him whenever I need. And, I did need, lol. For one the pads I used initially kept coming off. It took using a couple of different types before we finally found one that would work for me. I didn't know that and if he hadn't told me, I would have stopped using it. Summer was especially hard with sweat etc, but we got it licked.

        I suggest patients do their research before ordering a particular TENS unit, as there are so many different applications and options. There are different wave lengths used on each TENS unit, so that can be one thing to ask a representative about while you're shopping or looking for a better unit. Some wave lengths tend to be better for Migraine, or just specific patients. Most don't even realize there are different wave lengths though!

        I never suggest going to eBay etc for a unit. This is your life you're talking about. Spending the money to get the best possible unit for you, if it works, could be life changing. I don't know about you, but that would be worth an extra $50 to me in a heartbeat. A TENS machine can last for years and is a good investment if it is helpful. Think of the cost per day. Pennies.

        Sadly, I haven't been able to use my TENS for Migraine for years, but my next goal is to take it to my current PT and see if there are applications for it for some of my other pain issues, which sadly, can be very severe.

        As if having chronic, daily Migraine wasn't enough! Boy the things we go through...


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