Electrotherapy Pain Management For Ankylosing Spondylitis & Other Chronic Pain Conditions

Pain is unfortunately an unavoidable part of the amazing human experience.  Its the body’s warning system, a way of signalling that an area of the body requires more attention.  However, long-lasting persistent pain serves no useful purpose and when living with daily chronic pain, the body’s warning system quickly becomes something that we’d rather shut off.  When treating chronic pain and nervous system disorders like Fibromyalgia & chronic pain & inflammatory condition such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, the recommended course of treatment usually includes NSAIDs and for AS, immunosuppressants & self-administered injectables or biologics, such as genetically engineered DMARDs.  Though many of these drugs are proven to reduce the rate of damage to bone and cartilage as with Rheumatoid Arthritis, these drugs may cease to work in time and often produce negative side effects.  Including some which may outweigh their benefits.  There are many who would rather not risk stomach upset, bleeding ulcers, further joint discomfort, compromised immune systems, or risk developing other diseases or conditions and prefer to seek alternative anti-inflammatory options & natural pain management. However, for those who have no choice other than the use of drugs, alternative pain management may also compliment their course of treatment.

One exciting and very effective form of natural pain management is electrotherapy.  Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy as a non pharmacological, non narcotic, non addictive, non invasive treatment for  pain, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, lack of circulation and compromised range of motion.  Electrotherpay works by blocking pain signals, preventing them from reaching the brain. This form of alternative treatment can effectively treat symptoms such hyperalgesia associated with Fibromyalgia, as well as the chronic pain and inflammation associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis.  Rather than completely numbing the body to pain and blocking its mechanism for healing the joints and regenerating cartilage, as with long term use of certain medications.

There are many forms of electrotherapy available for home use, also known as Electrical Stimulation Devices.  The most commonly self administered ESDs is (TENS) Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS uses electrical current applied at a high frequency to stimulate the nerves.  A TENS unit is compact and portable, clipping nicely to a belt loop or  placed in a small purse. It usually has dual channels with two leads attached to each channel.  Each channel has both a positive and negative wire, colored either red or black.  Electrodes are usually provided with the purchases of your TENS unit and are best when they are rubber and adhesive, which will allow close contact with the skin. After several uses, the electrodes might loose their ability to remain sticky, so it is highly recommended that to have an extra set on hand.  Proper placement of the electrodes is important to benefit fully from the use of TENS.  The electrodes of opposite polarity may be placed close to one another, but never touching, as the body will reap zereo benefit.  Place the negative electrode on the site of pain and the positive electrode adjacent to it or near a nerve supply to the painful area.  On sensitive areas such as the knee, instead of placing the negative electrode directly on the patella, you might place the negative and positive electrodes on opposing sides of the patella. Perhaps one above the knee and one below.  There are immediate benefits to this treatment depending on the frequency used, low frequency releases endorphins and higher frequencies release harmones that are responsible for regulating pain.  Long term use might provide up to a 60% improvement in both acute and chronic pain conditions. Whereas some might find that the effectiveness of TENS diminishes over time.  Of course, effectiveness and results will vary from person to person.

The second ESDs that we’ll discuss in this article is (MENS) Microcurrent Electrical Nerve Stimulation.  MENS uses microcurrents that are so small, typically less than 600 microamps, that there is no discomfort or discernible sensation during application. MENS might prove more beneficial to those who are sensitive to the stronger current of TENS, such as children.  This form of electrotheraphy can normalize sensitivity and improve cell metabolism and heal at the site of pain.  Due to the ability of Microcurrent to heal at the cellular level its often used for wound healing and for treatment of pain and swelling. Microcurrent therapy has proven quite effective and works well with the body’s own electrical system.  Often used to treat swelling and pain from ligament strain, bruises, the spinal area, neck pain (beneath the collar) plus joint and back pain.  MENS is also a safe treatment method for treating injury, swelling and pain in children.  There are portable microcurrent devices readily available for MENS treatment.

I’ve personally used various TENS units for over 15 years, with very positive results for back & neck pain associated with multiple car accidents. Once diagnosed, I continued the use of TENS for musculoskeletal pain and symptoms associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis & Fibromyaglia.  When using TENS on both my neck and back prior to bed, I have a decrease in the morning pain & stiffness often associated with AS.  This allows me to wake up a simply get moving, without the usual waiting around for muscles to loosen and for the pain to subside on its own.  TENS has also been great for reducing or eliminating much of the dull, nagging aches or intense pain in my heels, knees and calves associated with plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis, as well as the more severe pain in connection with sacroiliitis.  I’ve recently discovered a device that incorporates both TENS & MENS, which I highly recommend. Its manufactured by Current Solutions, who has several ESDs combination electrotherapy units available.  The Intensity TENS/MENS Micro Combo is the most reasonably priced, best reviewed and now recommended by The Positive Pear. Click here to view & purchase.

Be sure to read ALL manufacturer instructions and when in doubt please contact a Chiropractor, Acupuncturist or Natropathic Doctor.  Prior to beginning any alternative treatment program please consult with your doctor, to avoid any potential harmful interactions with drugs or conditions that you may have aside from, or in addition to musculoskeletal disorders.  TENS & MENS units should not be used for undiagnosed pain, and should be completely avoided by those with heart disease, pace makers, implanted defribrillators or abdominal hernia and when in doubt about the use of TENS with these conditions contact your doctor or health care professional. In addition, use of TENS or MENS near the throat, face or head should always be avoided.

Many insurance companies will cover the purchase of TENS units via reimbursement for cases of chronic pain, once you’ve met their criteria.  This might include a failure to respond to several months of conventional medical treatments, including medications (NSAIDS) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy. The purchase of MENS units may not be reimbursable, being a new therapy compared to TENS.  In spite of its known use in Japanese physiotherapy since shortly after World War II, it still might be classified as experimental or investigational. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to verify your coverage for either the purchase of  Electrical Stimulation Devices or professional electrotheraphy treatments.

There are many therapies that fall under the umbrella of electrotherapy such as Noninvasive Cortical Electrostimulation & Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) which use micro-current. Proving quite effective for the treatment of anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia, drug addiction, headaches, ADHD, cognitive dysfunction and hyperalgesia associated with Fibromyalgia. While also improving mobility in conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, Parkenson’s and stroke. CES are designated class 3 devices by the FDA. Be sure to check out other natural pain management articles here on The Positive Pear. Wishing you many pain free days ahead.

Pear Reference: Aetna Health clarifies the use of TENS and its recommendations by doctors for chronic pain. Spondylitis Association of America: Lists TENS as one the many alternative therapies found useful for AS patience. Arthritis Foundation Clarifies that TENS will not cure AS or any form of arthritis, but suggests the usefulness of  TENS for fibromyalgia & chronic back pain. TENS falls under the category of Acupuncture for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. There have been many studies proving the efficacy of both Acupuncture & TENS, that many insurance companies now consider these acceptable forms of alternative treatments. Cortical Electrostimulation Study, Cerephex Cortical Electrostimulation Study

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9 thoughts on “Electrotherapy Pain Management For Ankylosing Spondylitis & Other Chronic Pain Conditions

  1. The study showed that chiropractic services was twenty four percent more effective than normal drug prescription. It worked over the wide range of symptoms which are common.

    Chiropractors realized that complaints on aching body areas do not necessarily mean the underlying problem is in one particular area alone. The pain may be emanating from the upper, middle, or lower back. For this reason, a physical exam and full evaluation of your vertebral column will be conducted.

    Chiropractic care is comprised of several treatment measures; some rely solely upon manual intervention while others employ instruments designed to leverage the force applied on the vertebral column without the need for thrusts. The approach taken by your doctor will depend largely on the underlying cause of your cervical pain. One common approach is known as the flexion-distraction technique.

    That being said, going to a chiropractor for chirpractic services is a safe and effective way to treat ailments without drugs. The idea behind chiropractic is not that the condition itself is treated, but that the body is able to heal itself.

    • Hello Dr Zemella~

      Thanks for stopping to share your insights on chiropractic treatment. It would be great if you could site the study you are referencing. Are you familiar with Ankylosing Spondylitis? I am an AS sufferer and unfortunately a victim of several car accidents, none of which were my fault. As a result I’ve sought chiropractic treatment and received many chiropractic adjustments in an attempt to work with my bodies own healing mechanisms. Many of my chiropractic treatments included the flexion distraction technique, but unfortunately some also including neck and back adjustment with spinal manipulation, the later of which I found extremely painful. However, after several months of treatment the end result was always a better, more functioning version of myself. I agree with the usefulness of chiropractic treatment, but I can only recommend it to those to AS sufferers who are not experiencing fusion. Those who are not fused could consider flexion distraction technique, but should avoid neck and spinal adjustments.

      Dr. Muhammad Asim Khan, rheumatologist, researcher, AS patient and a member of the SAA’s Medical & Scientific Advisory Board, claims that “Anyone with limited spinal mobility due to [spondylitis] should avoid manipulation of their back or neck by chiropractors and masseurs because it can be dangerous,” Dr. Khan explains that chiropractic treatments have sometimes inadvertently led to spinal fractures and neurological complications, especially in people with fusion (extra bone growth) due to spondylitis.

      I recommend to those who are living with fibromyalia, chronic fatigue and AS sufferers who are not fused, to investigate chiropractic treatment and to seek a D.C. who is very knowledgeable and experienced with these conditions, as I’m a firm believer that alternative medicine works with the body to aid in healing.

  2. Pingback: “Being Positive when Living with a Chronic Illness” #WAAD Chat Session with The Positive Pear « The Positive Pear

  3. can you please suggest some settings for the intensity combo micro device. I just ordered it along with the micro plus device. I’m not sure how to use it. I’m mainly interested in relaxing, reducing mild pain the distract me when I meditate. And do you know the polarity of the intensity combo micro device. Does is use a negative, positive or alternating current? Any help would be appreciated…thanks.

    • Hello Thani~ Congratulations on your purchase. I truly enjoy using my “InTENSity Micro Combo 2-in-1 TENS and Microcurrent Unit” and highly recommend it’s use for others. However, I can not prescribe a course of treatment for you. Though at first glance the device might appear intimidating and somewhat challenging to use, rest assured it is very user friendly. I highly encourage you to read all information enclosed with your device, as you’ll see many of your questions answered via the manufacturer’s instructions and device user manual. If you find that you still have concerns, I would further encourage you to contact the manufacturer directly or to seek out a Chiropractor for a consultation. Thank you for stopping by and have a wonderful pain free day!!

  4. Perhaps it will sound as if I am nit-picking but when an online site (in this case, The Positive Pear) posts technical feed-back on something like the TENS machine it seriously worries me when there are several spelling and grammatical errors made!Surely they should be professional enough to ensure that these do not occur while outlining the positive/negative effects of a product they are encouraging the public to buy?

    • Yes, let’s nit-pick a post that I wrote 5 years ago on my blog, which is NOT a professional, or organizational website. Btw you can bash my posts without tagging my blog! It’s snobs and self-proclaimed grammar natzis like you, that discourage people like me from sharing information that others could potentially find helpful. Oh and when I say “people like me,” I’m referring to people that experience cognitive challenges associated with chronic fatigue, pain and inflammation as a result of autoimmune disease. This among other nasty comments is why I stopped updating this blog years ago. I choose not to correct the typos, so that you and those like you can continue to feel superior. Have a wonderful day!

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