Chronic period pain such as that associated with Endometriosis, can be debilitating to sufferers.
Most find themselves relying on medication such as Codeine to get them through the day.
Codeine use can be harmful
Most Australians are unaware that over-the-counter medicines containing codeine for pain relief offer very little additional benefit when compared with medicines without codeine. The use of such medicines however, is associated with high health risks, such as developing tolerance or physical dependence on codeine.
Tolerance occurs when codeine becomes less effective and so the body needs higher and higher doses to feel the same relief from your symptoms.
Codeine poisoning contributes to both accidental and intentional deaths in Australia. The codeine-containing medicines that were available over-the-counter are usually combined with either paracetamol or ibuprofen. Long term use of high doses of paracetamol can also result in liver damage and the most severe adverse effects of long term ibuprofen use include serious internal bleeding, kidney failure and heart attack. With this in mind, the Australian Government Department of Health – Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have removed consumer access to medicines that contain low dose codeine. This type of medication is no longer be available over-the-counter without a prescription in pharmacies as of 1st February 2018.1
There are alternative treatment options available to sufferers of period pain, which are drug and relatively side-effect free, one of which is TENS Therapy.
What is TENS Therapy?
TENS is an acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
Transcutaneous – means through the skin.
Electrical – TENS machines deliver small electrical pulses to the body via electrodes placed on the skin.
Nerve – pain signals reach the brain via nerves and the spinal cord.
Stimulation – if pain signals can be blocked by electrical pulses from the TENS machine then the brain will receive fewer signals from the source of the pain.
TENS devices send a small electrical current through the skin to stimulate the sensory nerve endings that send signals up the spinal cord to the brain.
TENS Therapy relieves pain in two ways:
- By stimulating the release of Endorphins, the body’s own pain relieving hormones;
- By using a natural effect called the “Pain Gate” to block pain signals before they reach the brain.
TENS Therapy offers a drug-free alternative to pain relief and has an excellent reputation as an effective form of modern pain control.
If you are new to using a TENS machine, take things slowly, even if you are finding it useful. Don’t try to do too much too soon (as you may hurt yourself and make the pain worse). Also don’t stop all your normal painkilling medication too quickly. If you are on either a lot of strong painkillers or a number of different ones, it is advised to consult your GP for advice to help you reduce them safely so you have fewer side-effects.
Can TENS machines be used by everybody?
TENS machines tend to mainly to be used to help reduce pain from problems in muscles, joints and nerves (so-called musculoskeletal pain) along with period pain. Unlike a lot of medication there are almost no side-effects when using a TENS machine.
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1Codeine-Containing Medicines: Harms And Changes To Patient Access”. Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). N.p., 2017. Web, https://www.tga.gov.au/community-qa/codeine-containing-medicines-harms-and-changes-patient-access.
2 Schiøtz, H. A., Jettestad, M. and Al-Heeti, D. (2007) ‘Treatment of dysmenorrhoea with a new TENS device (OVA)’, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 27:7, 726 – 728