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Published in Women’s Health Letter, October, 2000:

What’s New?

Another machine — one you can use at home — is called a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). These machines block your low frequency chronic pain by emitting a high-frequency pain. So it works as a counter-irritant. It can relieve you of pain temporarily, but its effects are short-lived. Still, for someone in constant pain, even a short respite is welcome.

A giant step up from TENS units is a small device called the Alpha-Stim 100. Daniel L. Kirsch, PhD, developed it in the early 1980’s and a colleague of mine, Fred Lerner, DC, PhD, used it in his chiropractic practice from its inception. Dr. Lerner and I worked in the same office, and I was treated successfully with this unit many times. I also saw that many of his patients were helped by it. the Alpha-Stim 100 combines microcurrent electrotherapy with a cranial stimulator. it actually treats pain in the brain, where it originates. In addition to stopping pain signals, this device treats stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

You know that chronic pain affects your mood. Well, the Alpha-Stim 100 works on your mood as well as your pain — and the effects are much longer lasting than with a TENS unit. In a recent survey, Electromedical Products International, the company that makes this device, found that 94 percent of users found the Alpha-Stim 100 significantly improved their pain from arthritis, and 91.5 percent had significant improvements in their psychological outlook.

To get an Alpha-Stim 100, you need a diagnosis from your licensed health care practitioner (MD, chiropractor, osteopath, acupuncturist, etc.) and a prescription. If your prescription is from an MD you may be able to get reimbursed by your insurance company (it depends on your policy, says Dr. Kirsch).

Different devices may work differently, and your doctor may already know of another one that he or she feels would be more appropriate for you. TENS units and the Alpha-Stim 100 can be expensive (the Alpha-Stim 100 is $735 — but it works beautifully), so call and ask for information on it first and discuss it with your doctor.