I’m not a great fan of alternative medicine, and as a general rule I classify treatments sold at the Fair with snake oil. At the same time, I’m not really enthusiastic about the pill-for-everything approach of some doctors – and acupuncture did seem to work for my dog, once, when the more conventional vet said she’d be paralyzed for life. Besides, my back hurt, after walking all over the Fair. It usually does, when I’m standing or walking for any length of time (like over 5 minutes.)

So when I saw an outfit that comes every year with chairs urging passers-by to sit down and have a demonstration of their pain relief, I thought, “Why not? It probably won’t do anything, but just sitting will help.”

Well, it did help. I put it down to sitting and resting my back (though the electrical stimulation did feel good) and fully expected my back to be hurting again by the time I’d walked back to my car.

It didn’t.

In fact, it didn’t really start bothering me until I’d been walking around the fair for an hour the next day. So I went back for another demonstration. By the third day I’d decided to phone my doctor about this, and actually dropped off the company’s brochure at her office.

She confirmed that TENS therapy was a viable method for pain relief, but that Medicare probably wouldn’t cover it. (Many other insurance plans do.) The Fair price sounded reasonable to her, and I wound up buying a unit.

The unit works by applying a small electrical stimulus through pads you stick on your body. The pads must be in pairs so that the small current can flow between them —  not much currant, as the thing operates on 3 AA batteries. For my back, 4 pads are used – 2 on either side of my back, above and below the waist, with the current between the right and the left side. The result is a forced muscle vibration, leading to increased blood flow. It feels very much like massage – not like an electric shock at all.

I’ve used it a couple of times at home, now. The pads (which are reusable many times) are incredibly sticky when new, and so far I’ve used it mainly on the backs of my thighs, which tend to cramp badly at night. Warning: don’t try to change the position of the pads without turning the unit off! Hands do feel the electrical stimulation as a shock!

How does it work? There seem to be several theories, none of them thoroughly proven. But it does seem to help.

All in all I think this will be far better for me than pain-killers, which I’m leery of anyway. I’ll let you know what I think after a couple of months of use.

The unit is produced by Home Care Technology Co. and the people at the fair have a website.