Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Replacing Addictive Opioids For Many Patients With Pain
Pain-blocking devices, also known as using Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS units, may be steadily replacing the use of prescription narcotics.
Physicians report that an increasing number of patients are opting for over-the-counter devices to treat chronic pain to avoid the use of addictive painkillers and the side effects and potential risks that come with them.
TENS devices are touted as working for all kinds of pain. One of the most popular is Quell, a band that is worn around the calf that dispenses pain relief via low-intensity electrical signals that transmit throughout the central nervous system. It has been approved by the FDA to treat chronic pain without a prescription.
Another product, known as Livia, targets menstrual discomfort. Patients place small pads in the pelvic area where they hurt, and when the device is turned on, micro-pulses distract nerves from transmitting pain-related signals to the brain.
New, over-the-counter Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation devices typically cost between $50-$400, and can usually be purchased online. They incur few side effects, and there is no possibility of addiction or overdose.
Indeed, the pharmaceutical market is facing a significant backlash against opioid use, and biotech companies are leaning toward the use of technology to treat chronic pain. The opioid crisis has fueled the need for non-drug alternatives for pain relief, and many companies are working fiercely toward making this a reality for all.
Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 42,000 Americans died in 2016 from overdoses related to prescription painkillers and illicit opioids. Millions more remain addicted. But fortunately, this epidemic has resulted in innovations that seek to alleviate pain using technology instead of highly-addictive medication.
For an increasing number of Americans, TENS devices are offering an accessible, affordable, and effective treatment without fear of prescription drug addiction. In 2011, an Institute of Medicine of the National Academies Press report revealed that 100 million adults in the United States experience chronic pain, costing as much as $630 billion each year.
One drawback to these devices is that they only work for up to 30 minutes each day, which is good for short-term localized pain relief but may not be as helpful for long-term treatment.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology