A method of pain relief that involves the use of a mild electrical current can help women with fibromyalgia, researchers have found.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) delivers electrical currents through the skin to reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain, which can help relieve pain and relax muscles. They may also stimulate the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.
A TENS machine is a small, battery-operated device that has leads connected to sticky pads which are attached directly to the skin. When the machine is switched on it sends small electrical impulses to the affected area of the body, which the user feels as a tingling sensation.
In a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, women with fibromyalgia were given treatment with TENS for a four-week period along with standard treatments for fibromyalgia.
Participants reported significant improvements in movement-related pain and fatigue compared with those in control groups who received placebo or no TENS.
The findings suggest that TENS can provide people with a tool to help manage pain and fatigue without taking additional pain medications.
As the NHS website explains, TENS is already used as a method of pain relief during labour and for a wide range of conditions including:
"TENS is available over the counter, is inexpensive, and is safe and easy to use," said senior study author Kathleen A. Sluka of the University of Iowa. "It can provide a self-management option for people with chronic pain, particularly fibromyalgia, to provide an additional level of pain relief."