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Home > TCM
Moi from Singapore asked a question

How effective are pulse massagers for aches and pains, and are they harmful?

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DxD

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Lin Jiayi
(16 Reviews)
33 answers on DxD


TCM Sport Medicine
Do pulse massagers (those that stimulate nerve cells in your muscles with electrical impulses) work? Are they harmful with long term use?
DOCTOR’S ANSWER (2)

Dear Moi

In all honesty I had to check what "pulse massagers" were before I could give you an answer - but having looked them up, I realise that these are basically TENS machines.  TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) basically stimulates nerves so that they do not transmit pain - how, I hear you say? 

Essentially, nerves are a bit like traditional telephone lines - when you speak down a telephone it converts the sound of your voice into an electrical signal, which travels along a physical line and then is converted in to sound on the receiving unit - similarly, nerves are the signal transmitters in your body. 

The TENS machines keep the nerve in a constantly stimulated state so that they cannot transmit new pain signals from where the pain is originating.  Its similar principle to topical treatments such as tiger balm and deep heat - the capsiacin element in these treatments stimulate the nerves so that they do not transmit pain responses.

TENS has been used in medicine for many years and in sports medicine are often used for pain associated with an injury.  Now here are some considerations:

1. Pros - they can help with pain, they can help with restoring function (by reducing pain) and it seems that they are now available at a low cost

2. Cons - they mask pain (i.e. doesn't deal with why you have the pain), to work effectively they need to be correctly placed over the responsible anatomical structure, the level of stimulation needs to be carefully controlled, it can potentially interfere with other electrical items such as defibrillators and pace makers

While I do not believe that there is any harm with careful, supervised (i.e. with medical support) and judicious use, masking pain is not ideal on a long-term basis as you are not dealing with the root cause.  All of these modalities are only for symptom relief.

Hope this helps.

BW

Dr Dinesh

0 108 views 0 Doctors agree Thu Oct 11 2018 07:49:18 GMT+0000 (UTC)
Hi Moi,
 
A pulse massager is a convenient mode of therapeutic treatment nowadays that can be used to relax and soothe localized sore muscles in the comfort of your home or workplace.
 
Pulse massager works by applying electrical impulses to treat localized muscle aches and the frequency and intensity of the impulses can be adjusted according to your comfort.
 
Typically, you might feel tingling and vibrating stimulation at the localized area during the treatment with each treatment ranging from 10 minutes to 30 minutes according to your tolerance level and needs.

This mode of treatment works for some, however not all users give positive feedbacks. Some of the users are not comfortable with the constant muscle stimulation of the prickliness or spasm that they are not able to tolerate for long.
 
While some reflected that it even caused some form of numbness after the treatment that they do not feel their muscle aches are alleviated. However apart from this, I do not see much harm from trying out such treatment.

But do take note that for people with heart problems such as dysrhythmia or placed with pacemaker and pregnant ladies are not recommended for pulse massager stimulation. People with high blood pressure might use it with caution. Discontinue the stimulation if you experience any discomfort.

From TCM perspective pain related issues are associated to 2 main aspects that include the internal and external causative factors. The internal factors include prolong wear and tear from over work or exercise and weakness as a result of inferior body makeup, natural aging process or recovery from major illness and after giving birth.
 
While external factors comprise of contracting exogenous wind, cold, dampness or heat from the environment. The pain is due to the blockage of the meridians in the body or as a result of body weakness. 

TCM adopts a holistic approach in addressing pain related concerns. After diagnosing we will recommend acupuncture, cupping, scraping or medications to treat your discomfort. If the pain is due to weakness after giving birth then customized TCM prescriptions that help to boost Qi and blood will be more appropriate.
 
However if the pain is a consequence of prolong exposure to say air-con or fan and there is a buildup of wind-dampness or wind-coldness in the body, we will recommend cupping or acupuncture and or TCM prescriptions for effective treatment according to your body constitution. Thus, we do not only treat the pain itself but also the root cause of it.

Pulse massager is a localized treatment and without knowing the specific cause of your pain issues, it is not able to solve the root cause of your problems. Hence, if your pain issues are still not solved after a few sessions of the pulse massager stimulation, I would recommend you to seek professional consultation. 

I hope that I have answered your queries!
0 76 views 0 Doctors agree Fri Oct 12 2018 09:29:03 GMT+0000 (UTC)
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