Neuropathic pain or neuralgia is nerve pain that can make you miserable. When you have regular pain, like pain from an injury or pain from arthritis, nerves only conduct the pain signals up to your brain.
There are many different kinds of electrical stimulation that TENS units use and these affect the nerves and the pain signal in different ways.
The engineers get involved in all kinds of technical jargon about "wave forms" and "pulse width" that they see on the electrical meters but what really matters is how it feels and if it works or not.
Pain from the Nerve Itself
When you have neuropathic pain, this is pain that is coming from the nerve. The nerve is not conducting the pain signal. The nerve is causing the pain signal.
It is like the nerve itself is short circuited and causing the problem.
Effective Treatments for Neuralgia
The most effective treatments for neuralgia involve things that affect the nerves.
TENS units can be very effective for nerve pain because the electrical stimulation interrupts the pain signal to your brain.
Finding the Best TENS Unit
The best TENS unit to use for pain will have a selection of different modes that you can use because pain is a moving target, especially nerve pain.
Use the different settings to find what works best for You!!
The different settings will give you different levels of penetration and different kinds of effects on the nerves.
This will give you different options so that you can find what works best for you and your particular situation.
Everyone is different and
there is no "one size fits all".
You also need a way to adjust the intensity, so that you can make the electrical stimulation that you feel stronger or weaker.
It is not always the strongest stimulation that you can tolerate that works the best for blocking the pain.
Scientific studies have shown that TENS therapy is effective for the treatment of chronic pain.
It will also increase blood flow, reduce swelling and speed healing of acute injuries.
Medications Specifically for Nerve Pain
Some of the best treatments for neuralgia involve medications that you can apply directly to the skin so that they will penetrate directly into the nerve.
Some of these have an anti inflammatory effect that stops nerve pain by blocking inflammation.
Nerves are Sensitive
Nerves are sensitive structures. Inflammation from any source can cause a chemical irritation of the nerves leading to nerve pain.
Inflammation can come from sore muscles, arthritic joints or any type of injury.
Neuropathic and/or Nociceptive
And, it is not always evenly divided 50% of one and 50% of the other.
Some conditions, like shingles or trigeminal neuralgia, will cause a higher percentage of nerve pain.
2 Types of Pain
While other situations, like an injury or arthritis, will generate pain from the pain receptors.
So, what you need is more than one type of treatment to relieve both types of pain. Or, one type of treatment that will relieve both neuropathic and nociceptive pain.
Multiple Types of Pain
Often the pain that you feel may be multiple types of pain.
Pain from the pain receptors is called nociceptive pain. This could be pain from an injury or arthritis or many other common causes of pain.
Neuropathic and/or Nociceptive
Pain from the nerves is neuropathic pain or neuralgia. This is often why many treatments only help "a little bit".
It is because they only affect one type of pain when the pain that most people experience is usually some combination of neuropathic pain and nociceptive pain.
Topical treatments that you apply directly to the painful area will often have anti-inflammatory ingredients to reduce painful inflammation but it also reduces the neuropathic component of what you are feeling by reducing the irritation to the nerves.
As I said, nerves are sensitive structures that are susceptible injuries that will cause nerve pain.
Things like chemical irritation from inflammation, pressure from swelling, stretching from exercising, viruses like shingles and many others can all cause nerve pain that requires a special treatment directed specifically at the nerve.
Interrupt or Block the Pain Signal
Stimulate the Skin
Some scientists think that the sensation you feel when you apply capsaicin or stimulate the skin with accupressure, it blocks the nerve pain of things like shingles and carpal tunnel syndrome.
It can also work for arthritis pain but arthritis pain is a nociceptive pain(pain from the pain receptors) but the same theory applies.
Some people think that accupressure and capsaicin are more effective for neuralgia.
The Gateway Theory of Pain
The Gateway Theory of Pain states that you can only feel one pain at a time.
That is why you rub your hand after slamming it in the car door.
Interrupt the Pain Signal
The sensation of rubbing interrupts the pain signal. You feel the rubbing and not the pain from your hand.
This is one of the theories that tries to explain why TENS units work.
The Magic of Endorphins
Another theory contends that things like capsaicin and accupressure mats relieve pain by stimulating the release of endorphins.
Endorphins are those magic little molecules that relieve pain and give marathon runners the "runner's high".
The "Runner's High"
Endorphins are released by your central nervous system and by your pituitary when you exercise, laugh and have sex.
Other things that stimulate your endorphin production include eating chocolate, eating spicy foods and listening to certain types of music.
Similar to Morphine
These molecules activate the same receptors as morphine. They relieve pain and cause a mild euphoria.
Studies have shown that stimulating your skin, such as with accupressure mats or by applying capsaicin ointment can also release endorphins to relieve pain.