I just got home from my fourth rheuma-related appointment this week. Each has been, fortunately, positive. Monday was the occupational therapist. Tuesday was acupuncture paperwork day. Wednesday was the actual acpununcture session, which left me with very sore, swollen hands today, particularly my right.
This morning, my physical therapist coached me on how to use a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit. What an interesting device! Dorrie showed me how it worked and had me try it on my right hand while I was at her office. What a strange sensation that is — it feels both good and bad at the same time. She send it home with me.
There are two theories as to how and why it works, she said. The first is that it opens “gateways” to the brain’s pain centers and gives it something other than pain to concentrate on — in this case, weak pulses of electricity. The other is that the electrical sensations stimulate the brain to release endorphins, the body’s “feel good” hormones. It’s entirely possible that both theories work together to bring pain relief.
It occurs to me that this is really very similar to acupuncture, which also seeks to open “gateways” along the body’s “meridian lines,” which also ultimately end up in the brain. Acupuncture may also stimulate the release of endorphins.
Both methods of pain relief seem to work for some people to varying degrees. Some people don’t respond to either one. But I’m happy to try them both. If they work, they’ll be much better than taking narcotic pain meds or steriods, which can relieve pain but have very definite drawbacks. The good thing about acupuncture and TENS is that neither is addictive and neither has any adverse side-effects.
So, I’m smiling today. And on Saturday, I’ll be seeing my rheumatologist again. It’s been a busy week!