I have been going to physical therapy for 3 months now and recently we started using a Tens unit on my right leg. Lets get fancy. Tens, short for Transcutaneous (On skin) Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is a pocket sized machine that produces millions of tiny electrical impulses which enter the body via electrodes(sticky pads similar to the ones that are placed on you in hospitals), placed on the skin near the painful region. I say painful because these machines are actually used to help control chronic pain. Why did we start using the Tens? A person with a stroke could wear a weight on their leg, because previous studies showed that it sort of helped the brain think about that affected leg/areas more. New studies are showing that these Tens units help stroke patients regain some muscle control that they had lost post stroke. I am always up to try new ways to recover, and this was a try that I wasn’t going to let slip by.
I remember when my therapist first put the electrode pads on my leg.. two above my knee about 2 inches apart, one right on the back of my calf and one on the side of my calf. She turned the machine on.. “Tell me when you start to feel it ok?” … “OH WOW…..” I said while the currents got stronger.. I stared back at myself in the mirrors, in disbelief before I said. “That’s exactly how things felt when I had my stroke..” It wasn’t the best time for me to freak out, but it wasn’t easy sitting on the mat doing yoga with electrical tingling running through my leg, reminding me of the day that the stroke happened. I took a deep breath and let the yoga take over. Fast forward a few weeks and a handful of rehab sessions using the Tens unit later and I was asked one day after my hour long rehab session if I would like to own one. Excited, I said I would love that. We finally got a Tens unit for me and after 2 weeks of debate I was given an Empi Select, which I am in love with. I prefer levels 4.0 on continuous and feel at ease that the little machine is there to help remind my brain that we still have another leg to think about. My right one.
The feeling? Strong tingling. Very very strong tingling, which I prefer but the settings are user controlled. The tingling is similar to when your leg is seriously asleep and you don’t want to move it or walk on it. It’s not painful at all, but if you turn up the strength your muscles will begin to jump. I wear it every day, during my yoga, during work, or even when I’m doing my sad shoe shopping at the mall. I still dream about those heels.
Recovery. It’s one of those words that has very many meanings to many different people. It’s also something that has changed for me as well. You read how I was in the hospital bed and how I would have killed to move my leg voluntarily. You read how all I wanted was the feeling back, and in a way, that’s stayed the same. Yes I can walk and run funny but I won’t stop until I can jump and use my right leg the same way I use my left leg. Regardless if the feeling is there or not.