Would a TENS unit help improve fibromyalgia pain?

Answers from Jeffrey M. Thompson, M.D.

Possibly. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy sometimes used to treat localized or regional pain. During TENS therapy, electrodes deliver electrical impulses to nearby nerve pathways — which can help control or relieve some types of pain. TENS is often used to treat osteoarthritis and chronic and postoperative pain.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points — places on the body where slight pressure causes pain. The pain of fibromyalgia isn't limited to a specific area, so TENS therapy isn't generally used as a treatment. However, some new research has shown that TENS may be effective for reducing pain in people who have fibromyalgia, especially in combination with other treatments, such as exercise.

Fibromyalgia is often treated with various medications to relieve pain and improve sleep. Options may include medicines used to treat other disorders, such as antidepressants and anti-seizure medicines, as well as mild pain relievers.

Exercise is the main treatment, along with stress reduction, healthy sleep and good eating habits. Cognitive-behavioral therapy — working with a mental health professional to learn effective ways of thinking about and dealing with your condition — also may be recommended.

If you have fibromyalgia and your treatment plan isn't relieving your pain, consult your doctor. He or she may adjust your medications or offer additional treatment options.

With

Jeffrey M. Thompson, M.D.

Feb. 27, 2014