What is menopause?
Menopause marks the end of the menstrual cycle. This is typically understood to be 12 months after a person’s last ever period. Postmenopause is the time after that final period.
The lead up to menopause, wherein someone may be experiencing inconsistent periods and range of hormonal symptoms, is referred to as the perimenopause stage. This can take between 1 and 10 years, but tends to last for about 5 years. This is the phase of life in which the body is running out of eggs to keep the menstrual cycle and potential for fertilisation going. It’s also the phase that is commonly associated with menopause — think mood swings and hot flushes.
While commonly associated with the 40s or 50s age range, menopause can also occur among younger populations. Menopause can be induced due to medical treatments such as hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or even chemotherapy in response to cancer treatment. Therefore, it is important to recognise that there may be other things going on in someone’s life while they are going through menopause, and it is not always a natural result of the ageing process.
Luckily, lots of those pesky hormonal changes and bodily aches associated with both the menstrual cycle and menopause can be eased using a range of natural and medical methods, including the use of a TENS machine.
What is a TENS machine?
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machines are little battery-operated devices with electrode pads used for fast pain relief. The TENS unit sends electro currents to the skin when you attach the electrode gel pads to the painful area. This tricks the pain receptors and sends messages to the brain to block pain signals. When using a TENS machine, it should feel like you’ve flipped an off-switch and pressed ‘pause’ on your pain.
The features of a TENS machine vary depending on the brand, but a good TENS machine will have a compact, portable design. The actual TENS unit should be easy to use with a few simple buttons to control the power and settings. How you actually apply the machine will depend on the amount of electrode gel pads attached, sometimes there are two, sometimes there are four. Two gel pads are great for targeting one specific spot on the body, and four gel pads lend themselves to a simple square or more spread out placement.
How can a TENS machine treat menopause symptoms?
It won’t quite soothe your hot flashes, but it can help you with other troubling menopause symptoms:
1. Ease achy joints
Joint pain around the shoulders, knees, hips, elbows, or hands is likely to occur with menopause. TENS machines can be used to calm shoulder aches or achy knees or hips. This may help reduce inflammation. (Just be cautious not to put the TENS unit directly against the joints.)
2. Alleviate menstrual cramps
Just because your period is ending, doesn’t mean it’s getting any easier to manage. Your body is changing, which may mean newfound cycle-related pain. Fluctuations in the heaviness of your bleed is normal, too. Using a TENS machine on the lower stomach or lower back can be a lifesaver when it comes to period cramps.
3. Soothe muscle pain
It’s normal to feel stiffness and tightness in the body when going through menopause. Muscle tension could also be a result of the natural ageing process. TENS machines can be used on any large muscle that seems to be causing trouble, such as abdominals or legs.
4. Reduce headaches
Migraines and headaches are a common symptom of menopause due to the change in estrogen levels. Did you know you can use a TENS machine to assist during a headache? Placing your TENS machine on the upper back/shoulders just below the back of the neck can help relieve migraines and headaches. (Never put the TENS unit directly on your face, head, or neck.)
Read more on VUSH Wellness
To learn more about the types of pains and conditions that a TENS machine can help with, head to the VUSH Wellness Blog. We’ve shared information on back pain, IBS, post-workout sore muscles and DOMS, and more.
We’ve also got you covered when it comes to periods and menstrual health — the best place to start is our article on the four stages of the menstrual cycle.