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Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2011
Total Posts : 291
   Posted 5/26/2011 7:16 AM (GMT -6)   
I have SI joint inflammation and inflammation of piriformis muscle where I get sciatia like pain and also daily joint / back pain.  My physio recommended I get a portable tens unit for using at home.  It costs $500 and so it's a lot of money to pay for something that MAY work (and I'm a little iffy on it).
Do these work for joint pain?
Ulcerative Colitis 1988, had colon removed and now jpouch
Now sufer from sacroiliitis and inflammation of piriformis muscle causing sciatica like pain during flare ups. Joints very bad...take celebrex when needed.

Screaming Eagle
Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 5/26/2011 8:42 AM (GMT -6)   
          Hello Lu2011!
               Welcome to the CP forum!
      Well I'm certianly no expert on these units, I will just say that I can see where they may be somewhat efficitve for joint pain. I think it interrupts the pain signal, so again I can see where it may help. It certianlly might be worth a try, but at $500 I can see your point. OUCH! (little pain joke) shakehead
       I was thking that your Dr can script this, but again I'm just not sure about that.....or maybe the possibilty of Ins paying for it? You must be refering to one that the Dr's use, .....and also, there are units that can be bought on line at a much cheaper price, but I believe the Dr scripted one's are much better at the job, and have many more setting options.
         I don't think I have really done you much good for an answer, but did want to "Welcome" you here!
    We have a great support group, and I encourage you to visit and post as often as you like.
         Take care!
     SE wink
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Weekly Quote!

"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together"

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 16788
   Posted 5/26/2011 2:19 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Lu and welcome to Healing Well's chronic pain forum. I can understand your position greatly here and I think the dr needs to back up and look at what he is asking his patient to be spending a lot of money on that may not even help her. Usually, what happens with the Tens is they are rented for a couple of months to see if they help. If they do, then the drs office assists working with your health insurance company in getting them to pay for one. Even the rental is paid by health insurance, you should not be out any money what so ever. I know, I have one and this is how my drs office handled it all on my behalf.

Again, I wanted to say welcome aboard and let you know how my drs office got my Tens unit for me and it is pretty much that way with all drs offices. Good luck, let us know what happens here.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9664
   Posted 5/26/2011 3:31 PM (GMT -6)   
I'll answer your question here in the CP Forum, I got mine from my physical therapists and he helped program it
for me. either your doctor or pt or chiropractor should be able to help program this for settings
that help and won't can get replacement sticky pads on amazon or at a pharmacy..
I use mine when needed, mostly at night an hour before bed, sometimes with a hot pack sometimes
with a cold pack...
P.S. you might want to introduce yourself on this forum VS the RA forum, you might like it better here
and get better responses, as most of us here do have S1 problems, (back pain)..
well wishes...
* So many dx's I could write a book* "It would be nice if we could use the edit button in real life"...

Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2011
Total Posts : 291
   Posted 5/26/2011 7:16 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you for the responses. It makes me feel not so alone in my pain and good to hear other's experience of what works and what doesn't.
I'll talk to my PT next week when I go.  I got the impression that I would be borrowing it although when I spoke to my insurance today to find out my coverage, they talked like it was a rental.  Good to be able to try it out and see if it works..and then buy it for difference if it does.
Chartreux, thanks for the suffestion of introducing myself.  I didn't realize that most over here suffer from SI issues as well.
Ulcerative Colitis 1988, had colon removed and now jpouch
Now sufer from sacroiliitis and inflammation of piriformis muscle causing sciatica like pain during flare ups. Joints very bad...take celebrex when needed.

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 9250
   Posted 5/27/2011 12:52 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Lu...

You certainly aren't alone in the CP forum. It's like a huge family who totally understand your pain since we all suffer. I looked on eBay to see what TENS units are going for. If your insurance company doesn't want to pay or your copay is outrageous you might consider going that route. Some are used but most were new and the new ones were around $60 - $80 bucks. BUT, those probably have fewer features. I'm no expert on these units. One time at PT they hooked me up to one and I about went nuts getting someone back in the room to take that darn thing off. I was about to throw it out the window without opening it I'll take fingernails on the chalk board any day. <shudder...getting goose bumps just talking about it>

I'm just weird though. I can't stand the feeling of a TENS but I've never talked to anyone else who feels like I do with them. Most people just love it. I hope you find it brings you relief. And there is more than one way to help keep medical expenses from destroying you financially.

Keep in touch,
Moderator on the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain forums
Daily Donnybrook: Fibromyalgia, Insulin Dependent Diabetes. Ulcerative Colitis, Rare form of Dermatitis, Collapsed Disk, Osteoarthritis (especially in right hand and neck) and a couple of other adjunct agitations.
Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 1276
   Posted 5/27/2011 1:47 AM (GMT -6)   
Chutz, you're not alone... I HATED the TENS unit with an absolute passion. It's kind of strange really, because the SCS when it works, works quite well for me.

If you have to buy, definitely look on eBay, and if you're hiring, worth having a look at your local chemist.

CRPS since 1999, diagnosed in 2005 and since spread to full body, spasms, dystonia & contractures, gastroparesis, orthostatic hypotension, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome.

On Oxycontin/Endone, Topamax, Mobic, Magnesium, Florinef, Somac, Cipramil. Have a spinal cord stimulator, intrathecal pump with baclofen & bupivacaine and doing physio.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 3193
   Posted 5/27/2011 1:19 PM (GMT -6)   
I'm sorry but your description made me laugh tongue I totally get what you are saying...
I used a TENS for awhile and didn't get relief... but I know others have.
We have medical supply companies around here that "rent" the units for a small cost per month.  Also, the e-Bay idea was a good one, too.

Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2011
Total Posts : 291
   Posted 5/27/2011 2:20 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for the responses.  I guess I find it hard to just run out and buy it as it's no a direct treatment for the cause. (e.g. whereas NSAIDs are known to reduce inflammation).  It's a theory that it helps reduce pain. 
Plus when they've hooked it up, they always do it too high as it's irritating on my piriformis muscle (shooting pain).  And I'm concerned that I'll do more damage than help.  The back / joint is so fragile, that any wrong move can cause a flare up. 
Ulcerative Colitis 1988, had colon removed and now jpouch
Now sufer from sacroiliitis and inflammation of piriformis muscle causing sciatica like pain during flare ups. Joints very bad...take celebrex when needed.

SE Sis
Regular Member

Date Joined May 2011
Total Posts : 61
   Posted 6/1/2011 11:17 AM (GMT -6)   
I bought one over the Internet.  I did a lot of research before I got it and got the approval from my PT.  It cost me about $100.  Well worth it. I used it before my surgery.  I don't use it so much now, after my surgery, but did help before my sugery.  You can get one a lot less expensive if you do your research and get one online. 
SE Sis
S1, L4-5, L3-4 Fusions, Rods & Screws inserted, bone chipped out for room for nerves. (May 10, 2010)
Right Hip Surgery to fix damage from Physical Therapy for my back. (2006)
Anxiety/Panic Attacks (started 2005)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 856
   Posted 6/1/2011 4:51 PM (GMT -6)   
It helps me a little bit...enough to be worth while. Every little bit helps when it comes to pain!



New Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 8/24/2011 6:43 AM (GMT -6)   
I love mine, cut my very strong painkillers down by 75%
I have severe pain from ankylosing spondylitis.

But 500$?? That is way too much

I actually have two. I bought a cheap one first 72 au$ and it works wonders. I am so pleased with it.
Then i figured, if i bought one a bit more expensive it would be better. But no. It is supposed to have long life this and that and lots of features. But its useless.
So now I'm back at my 72 au$ machine and practically not having any noticeable pain, unless on days when it spikes. And even on those days it helps a lot and saves my body from the effects of narcotic pain killers

Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2011
Total Posts : 291
   Posted 8/24/2011 6:51 AM (GMT -6)   
I decided in the end not to get the personal one.  And in fact, I find that I don't like it when it's done in my PT sessions.  Not sure if it helps, and if anything, it irritates my back as I sometimes feel a bit of the shooting pain afterwards.  Sounds like it does help some of you though.  Probably for me, cause "things" touch my sciatic nerve, it's not good, but can see if its just pure inflammation or sore muscles it would help.
Ulcerative Colitis 1988, had colon removed and now jpouch
Now sufer from sacroiliitis and inflammation of piriformis muscle causing sciatica like pain during flare ups. Joints very bad...take celebrex when needed.

Regular Member

Date Joined May 2011
Total Posts : 104
   Posted 8/25/2011 9:32 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi everyone! I haven't posted in a while. Just thought I'd add my 2 cents in on this one. I wouldn't go to sleep without my scs unit! I was on so much pain meds no other pm dr would take me when we changed insurance. I had to pay out of pocket to see her. Now that I have my unit in I'm off all pain meds. I know each person is different, I'm the person it worked for. I tried everything else, back fusion, shots,therapy, you name it, they did it, twice it the insurance allowed it.

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 8/27/2011 4:28 PM (GMT -6)   
I have a TENS unit and use it for both my hand/arm pain in addition to low back pain (due to 2 bulging discs). That is the one thing that I am totally lost without. It would not hurt to give it a try. I have great success with it.

White Beard
Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 3702
   Posted 8/27/2011 4:57 PM (GMT -6)   
I just wanted to share my rather amusing experience with my first TENS unit I had when I first injured my back in the late 90's, at that time I had a "big bag phone with a large battery pack" anyway while driving in the car, with the bag phone next to me, when it would ring it would cause the tens unit to shock the day-lights out of me, and when driving that is not a pleasant experience, then I found that in the hospital that I worked at, if I had a patient that had heart telemetry on, when the alarm went off on it, it would also shock the heck out of me. Need I say I quit using it after a couple of shocking experiences. They have since changed them allot, but I still have problems with the pads and the adhesive that they use to keep them on. I just don't use the TENs at all anymore!

White Beard
Moderator Chronic Pain
After spending nearly 22 1/2 years in the USAF, I retired in Sept, 1991. I then went back to school and became a licensed RN in 1994, and I worked on Oncology and then a Med Surg Unit, I became disabled in late 1999 and was approved SSD in early 2002!-- DDD, With herniated Disk at T-12 and L4-5. C5-C6 ACDF in Sep 2009, C6-C7 ACDF in Mar 1985, Osteoarthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Complex Sleep Apnea, and host of other things to spice up my life!(NOT!) Medications:Oxycontin, Percocet, Baclofen, Sulfasalazine, Metoprolol, Folic Acid, Supplemental O2 at 3lpm with VPAP Adapt SV I am White Beard with a White Beard!
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