Managing Hepatitis C Pain with TENS Devices

TENS Devices2005 ABC News/USA Today/Stanford University Medical Centre poll indicates that over half of the American population suffers from some form of chronic pain. This number includes millions suffering from pain caused by Hepatitis C. The good news is that the medical industry has been at work developing solutions such as managing hepatitis C pain with TENS devices.

TENS devices can be a low-cost way to manage pain in the meantime, until a full treatment regime can be performed. In the US, treatments for Hepatitis C can range from $74,600 to $94,5000. Paying such a price tag is not viable for everyone until they can obtain the funds for a US-based treatment, negotiate with their health care provider to cover the costs, or even travel abroad to obtain generic treatments at a fraction of the price.

This article will start by looking at what hepatitis pain is. It will then look at what TENs units are and what they are designed to do. The main idea is to look at the safety of using these TENS devices by reviewing some of the experiences of those using them. The discussion will also look at some common side effects identified when using this pain solution.

Pain Caused By Hepatitis C

The US Department of Veterans Affairs identifies different types of pain associated with hepatitis C including pain relating to some form of discomfort in the abdominal area or around the area where the liver is situated. The pain comes in different forms; it can be mild at times and in other instances, it could be dull, occasionally it can be severe. In some patients, it can come and go and in other cases, it can be persistent.

Joint Pain Does Not Always Mean Hepatitis C

In some people, pain is experienced in the joints. It is usually felt in the small joints in places such as the ankles, wrists, and hands, but it could also manifest in other areas of the body. However, joint and hand pain is not always a result of hepatitis C. This is the reason why it is important to see the doctor when you suspect that your pain may be related to this condition.

When you see a doctor, you will take the guessing out of the game. The doctor will help you to isolate other possible causes for your pain, such as arthritis.

What Are TENS Devices?

Once you have the diagnosis and know that your pain is caused by hepatitis C, you have several options of which one is using a TENS unit. However, before using this treatment, you want to get adequate information about what it is. You also want to get an idea of some side effects, if any, you can expect when using this device.

Physiopedia, a resource for knowledge available for physiotherapy and physical therapy, says Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is an electrical stimulation method which aims to provide some degree of pain relief by exciting the sensory nerves. When the nerves are excited, they stimulate the opioid system or the pain gate mechanism.

How TENS Devices Work

The idea behind using TENs devices is that when the sensory nerves are excited, they activate natural mechanisms of pain relief. These devices basically activate two types of pain relief mechanisms; the Endogenous Opioid System and the Pain Gate Mechanism. The way you apply TENS depends on these two primary mechanisms.

The Pain Gate Mechanism

The pain gate mechanism activates sensory fibers in a way that interferes with the transmission of pain via the spinal code to the brain centers that register this pain in the brain. According to Physiopedia, even though there is no evidence supporting the fact that there is a particular frequency which works best, higher frequencies seem to produce better results.

Each patient should be able to find a frequency which works for them. These would vary between different individuals. This is why it is not advisable for anyone to set the machine and then tell every patient that this is the right setting.

The Opioid Mechanism

The second mechanism activates the opioid mechanisms. In this case, you will be using lower frequencies, in order to stimulate the release of an endogenous opiate. This also interferes with the sensory pathways that relay pain to the brain.

Check out this video on YouTube on how to use a TENS device:

TENS Devices Side Effects

One of the advantages of using TENS devices as a way of managing your pain, is that this is a non-invasive method, with a few side effects, if you are comparing it with therapy which involves drugs. The most common complaint among users (according to Physiopedia 2 to 3 %) is an allergic skin reaction. Most of the time this is caused by the material used to make the electrodes.

Some Contraindications

Like other forms of treatment, there could be contraindications when using this method for treating pain. Problems could arise when a patient fails to understand or refuses to cooperate with the instructions as given by the physiotherapist.

Pregnant Patients

There has been information that applying electrodes over the abdomen, trunk and when pregnant is contraindicated. However, recent information suggests that is safe to apply to us TENs devices over the trunk during pregnancy. Since this information is not conclusive, it is better to treat this as a contraindication until more solid evidence is available.

Patients Fitted With a Pacemaker

If a patient has a pacemaker, it is advisable that they are not treated using TENs devices unless their heart condition is carefully controlled. To be safe, it is preferable to consider the treatment of a hepatitis C patient with pacemaker as a contradiction.

There will also be contraindications when the patient has an allergic response to gel, electrodes, or tape.


People suffering from hepatitis C should pay special attention when using TENS devices for the treatment of pain, especially for the first time. If you notice any skin sensations that are abnormal, try to place the electrodes in another place. Never place the electrodes over the eyes.

If a patient has epilepsy, the therapist should approach the treatment using TENS devices with greater care. The opinion of a medical practitioner should be obtained before such treatment is started.


Managing hepatitis C pain with TENS devices can be an effective way of dealing with pain even though you need to know what you are doing before you start. Before you make a diagnosis, ensure that you have received the opinion of a medical practitioner who is qualified to give such a diagnosis. To avoid contraindications, ensure that you have understood the instructions on how to use such units. It is advisable that pregnant women avoid these devices as their effects on an unborn child are not yet clear.

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