Many fibromyalgia sufferers become frustrated at the lack of effective treatment available for their fibromyalgia symptoms. The chronic headaches, muscle weakness and fatigue can often be too much to bear. However, if you are looking to try a new treatment that can help relieve some of these symptoms, then you amy want to try electrotherapy muscle stimulation. Electrotherapy muscle stimulation is a safe and effective treatment for the chronic pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia.
What is Electrotherapy?
Electrotherapy, or electromedicine, is a class of treatment that uses electrical impulses to improve symptoms of pain, muscle loss, and depression in patients. It may sound quite scary to you to be treated using an electrical current, but, in fact, electricity has been used in medicine for almost 2,000 years.
Electricity is actually one of the safest and most effective ways of treating pain and other illness, because it is associated with so few side effects. Electrotherapy delivers a small, pulsating current to a person’s muscles and nerve endings. This current causes the muscles to contract and then relax. Repeated stimulations allow the muscles to strengthen, relax, and feel less painful.
What are the Benefits of Electrotherapy?
There are different types of electrotherapy but they are all associated with the same benefits. Electrotherapy was introduced to American medicine in the 1950s, and used to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Now, electrotherapy has proven effective in treating other illnesses, including chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia. Electrotherapy promotes nerve conduction, blood circulation, and also helps the body to heal on its own. It is very similar to a deep tissue massage. The effects of electrotherapy are cumulative, so you will see more benefits after repeated treatments.
Types of Electrotherapy
There are three main types of electrotherapy muscle stimulation available to fibromyalgia sufferers. Before you begin electrotherapy treatment, speak with a licensed professional and find out whether you are suited for the treatment.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
TENS therapy is a non-invasive and non-addictive way to treat fibromyalgia pain and fatigue. It delivers a current of about 60 milliamperes to muscles and nerve endings that are causing you particular pain. It causes these nerves to contract and relax, allowing for muscle stimulation and strengthening. It also reduces pain and restores mood.
TENS electrotherapy equipment can be purchased and used at home, for private, comfortable treatment. The TENS unit comes with a battery, electrodes, and an electric signal generator. You simply place the TENS electrodes, which are usually rubber or felt pads, over a painful area of your body. An electric current is then delivered to the electrode, stimulating your muscle and blocking pain messages from being sent to your brain. This allows your pain symptoms to improve. TENS units can be used once a week, every other day, or as often as needed to provide relief. They cost between $400 and $700.
Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (PENS)
PENS is a variant of TENS, only it uses a needle probe to stimulate nerve endings instead of a felt pad. PENS treatments must be done by a licensed professional, either an acupuncturist or general physician, and typically last 30 minutes. The physician first locates sore or painful areas that require treatment. The physician inserts needles that have been attached to electrical impulses 1 to 4 centimeters below the skin. Electrical impulses are then delivered to the needles.
PENS treatments are thought to be more effective than TENS treatments. This is because the needle electrodes are able to bypass your skin, providing less resistance to the electric current. It allows for nerves to be stimulated more accurately and efficiently. PENS treatments will probably only be available to you if TENS treatments have provided you no relief. The procedure is not at all painful, and is associated with few, if any, side effects.
Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES)
In the past, CES was used exclusively to improve mood and sleeping habits in ill patients. Recently, it has been introduced as a chronic pain treatment for people with illness like fibromyalgia. Cranial electrotherapy can be performed in the privacy of your own home. This treatment delivers a very mild electric current (about a millionth of an amp) through your head. Two electrodes are clipped onto your earlobes and a low electrical current is transmitted back and forth through your head. There is absolutely no pain or discomfort involved in this treatment.
Cranial electrotherapy stimulators work to relieve pain and improve mood by stimulating the hypothalamus. This is the part of your brain responsible for governing mood, cognitive function, and emotions. The electrical impulses stimulates your hypothalamus to produce more neurohormones, helping to regulate your pain symptoms.
Complications and Side Effects
There a few, if any side effects associated with electrotherapy muscle stimulation. If too strong a current is used, there is a risk that you could burn or irritate your skin. Sometimes, people are sensitive to the glue or tape used to affix the electrodes to the skin.
Complications can occur in some individuals, though. You shouldn’t use electrotherapy if you:
- are pregnant
- have a pacemaker
- have an implanted defibrillator
Electrotherapy and Fibromyalgia
Electrotherapy is often recommended to treat the numerous fibromyalgia symptoms. All types of electrotherapy have proven beneficial to fibromyalgia sufferers in one way or another, although more studies need to be done to conclusively prove the benefits of electrotherapy treatments.
One study found that the use of CES improved both the pain and sleep problems caused by fibromyalgia. Participants reported a 28% drop in the number of tender points as well as a 27% reduction in their overall pain after 6 weeks. 90% of participants agreed that electrotherapy had helped to improve their quality of life.
A study on the use of TENS in fibromyalgia patients, found similar results. After 6 weeks of TENS therapy, participants reported a 70% drop in their pain symptoms as well as a 53% increase in their activity levels. Sleep patterns improved by 50%.