Wednesday, October 11, 2006

While my TENS Unit Gently Hums

I spend about an hour each day hooked up to my trusty TENS unit now, usually thirty minutes in the morning and thirty before bed. It's like ECT for the back muscles, but ECT is no laughing matter.

Back pain is so pervasive, so all-encompassing, so life-altering. Chronic headaches are similar in that their effect is also global and often debilitating, but are oftentimes not seen truly as a "disease" by medical providers, rather more an annoyance to be tolerated. Having seen many people undergo spinal surgery, my jury is permanently out vis-a-vis the efficacy of such, especially spinal fusions and discectomies. I have witnessed such post-surgical suffering and disability from spinal surgery that I would hesitate to recommend it or undergo such trauma myself. Back pain is no fun, but neuropathy and immobility are equally repulsive.

While medication can be helpful---and I have used some short-term prescriptions for Vicodin and muscle relaxants---I much prefer to find non-pharmacological methods for controlling my pain and discomfort. While my pain is not debilitating, it is rancorous enough to alter my mood and occasionally my desire to do things which I might otherwise enjoy. Luckily, between this TENS unit and physical therapy, things have worked themselves into a steady state of functionality and tolerability.

Some years ago, I underwent a course of physical therapy and found it to pale in comparison to the chiropractic care I was then receiving. Now, under the auspices of my physiatrist, I'm again attempting a period of physical therapy, temporarily suspending all chiropractic activities so that I can have an empirical experience of PT. Surprisingly, I find as much---or more---relief from PT at this point, and don't yet feel that almost addictive need for my spine to be cracked (although a good neck adjustment would sure feel good about now). While I still fully believe in the efficacy of chiropractic, for my current purposes I'll continue this experiment and see where it takes me. An upcoming physiatry appointment may lead to further spinal injections---something which I plan to request---but as long as I can do the things I want to do and feel minimally limited by my pain, I'll stay the course.

So, as my electrifying session comes to a close and the TENS unit is put away until later, I bid you adieu from my personal torture chamber until next time. Next to cancer, multiple sclerosis, or AIDS, my condition is a cake walk and I give thanks for my relative health and well-being.
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