I am a Cardiac Critical Care Registered Nurse. People depend on me to walk, stoop, crouch, bend over and RUN at a moment’s notice. One afternoon, I was helping a larger patient out of bed to the bedside commode, when he pulled me down onto the bed as his knees gave way. I knew once I was able to get on my feet that I wouldn’t be standing straight – I felt the strain and pain in my back. I called for assistance to help the patient and left the room in a hunched over shuffle.
I hung on to the railing in the hall walking slowly, carefully back to the nurses’ station to fill out the proper forms. I went to Employee Health, the doctor examined me and returned me to work with “light duty.” Light duty? I couldn’t straighten up! Two of the nurses agreed I needed to see a chiropractor and get my back and neck cracked. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded painful.
My Introduction to My TENS Unit
I made the appointment with the chiropractor for the next day. When I woke up and tried moving around my house, I noticed that not only was I hunched over, I was leaning more to the right and my gait was now led by my left foot and hip. I was quite the twisted mess! The chiropractor did the back and neck cracking thing, which helped a bit with the pain, but I still couldn’t straighten up, and my left hip was still leading my body. The chiropractor asked if I’d be willing to try a TENS unit. I asked what it was and he explained that it delivered tiny electric impulses to the muscles that could help relax them and take the pain away. He stated that many patients felt relief after using it and that I could try it for a few minutes. I was worried about getting shocked. He assured me that it was very safe and very effective. So I gave it a whirl. He placed the electrode pads on my back and turned on the machine. I didn’t really feel anything, but I was in so much physical pain that I probably couldn’t have felt a deep paper cut at that point. He left the machine on for about 15 minutes, took the electrodes off and asked if I wanted to try sitting and then standing up. As I moved around I noticed that I didn’t have the same pain and stiffness. I was able to stand up. I still wasn’t completely straight, but I also wasn’t leaning over nearly as much and my left hip was only slightly forward. The chiropractor said I’d probably need another treatment, or maybe two, before I was 100 percent again.
On the day of my next appointment, I noticed that some of the stiffness had returned, but I was still nearly 100 percent vertical and my left hip was only slightly leading my body. The chiropractor said this time he would only use the TENS unit since it seemed so beneficial. He left it on for 25 minutes, and when the treatment was over he asked me to stand. I was back to my old self. My left hip no longer turned out, and I had my hourglass figure again. I think I actually felt taller! I thanked the chiropractor profusely and wanted nothing more than to go out dancing. I went to work instead, to walk, stoop, crouch, bend over, and RUN, and at least now I could!
Fast Forward Five Years…..
It was a frigid Ohio winter, and I was walking carefully, or so I thought across the driveway when I slipped and fell on ice. I felt a pain in my back similar to my previous injury. I was able to get up, hobble to the house and get to the couch. Over the next few days, what had started out to be a few back spasms here and there left me completely FLAT on my back and trapped in bed one morning. I tried hot and cold therapy. I tried an over the counter pain reliever. I tried a pain relieving gel, but the spasms were too great. My best friend asked her chiropractor boyfriend to visit me and crack my back in an effort to at least get me up and moving a little better than my crawl to the bathroom and back when needed. His efforts paid off, and I was able to be vertical, but the back spasms resonated throughout my back and were more intense than I’d ever felt in the past. Two days later, I was flat on my back again and able to move only after taking more ibuprofen than I was comfortable with. There were moments when I thought that my life was now going to be like this, and I wondered if at some point that I simply wouldn’t be able to walk again.
I’m now walking tall again thanks to my TENS unit!
I made an appointment with the chiropractor again and simply told his assistant that I would need to come in for a TENS treatment. I explained that to the doctor that the spasms were different than ones I had experienced before. They felt like a million tiny little fibers near the spine set off a change reaction throughout the rest of the muscles in my back. He said the hot and cold therapy wouldn’t work on those types of spasms, but that the ibuprofen would have helped dull the pain. After one TENS treatment for 25 minutes, the spasms stopped. I didn’t need a second treatment, they simply stopped. The chiropractor’s only advice was that I should ease back into my yoga routine and to lay off camel pose or any other deep backbend. After getting being cured so quickly of such horrific spasms, I was more than happy to comply with the doctor’s orders. I’m now walking tall again thanks to my TENS unit!
Gloria G. Attar RN BSN
Grateful TENS user