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Comments 9

Let’s Talk About The TENS Unit

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of I Forgot How To Feel Better (4)

I’m a huge advocate of clothing camouflage. Loose shirts and cardigans are great to hide a flabby stomach or that back-fat area around a tight bra strap; however, I’m wearing them to hide both a back brace and a TENS unit. (And the bra fat. Let’s be real.)

Here’s me in my extremely stylish office bathroom:

Hellooooo! (Reluctantly copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

Hellooooo! (Reluctantly copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

I usually only wear the TENS on occasions when my back pain is truly escalating and refuses to level off. This week has been particularly bad. The TENS is keeping me at a functioning level, considering I am backing off the Lyrica. The electrodes irritate my skin after more than one use, which is unfortunate, but the only cost-efficient way to use the device is to reuse the pads until the gel wears down and the pads electrocute you. Tiny shocks to be sure, but electrocutions nonetheless.

Side note on the electrodes: Don’t go through the supplier from which you acquired the actual unit. My insurance company holds the very ridiculous philosophy that while they will cover the device, they will not cover the electrodes. Tufts, you silly company, the device does not work without the electrodes. Going through Empi was far more expensive than getting similar pads on, where I could A.) buy them in bulk and B.) get free two-day shipping. (Husband doesn’t like because of vertical integration, but I love me some Amazon Prime.)

Here’s a stupid story for you. About a year ago I woke up early one morning because I was too uncomfortable to sleep. I snuck out into the living room, accompanied by Fattie. It was about 5 a.m. on a Saturday.

Fattie is always so happy to be with me. (Joyously copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

Fattie is always so happy to be with me! (Joyously copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

I’d just gotten the TENS unit from my spine surgeon’s office at one of my post-surgical followup appointments. I’d tried using a similar device a few years before, but I had not enjoyed the experience. It was too bulky, too noticeable. I remember trying not to cry as my father hooked up the wires and placed the electrodes on my back. This one, at least, was smaller. I was in my bathrobe and fumbling with the electrodes, tired and working in the dark, when somehow it turned on while my finger was attached to the sticky pad.

I was Thor in a lightning storm, electricity coursing through my body. Fattie meowed at me, like, Food? Wat u doin? I needs food, Mama. And all I could think was, I had to get the cat to be quiet so Husband wouldn’t wake up. This wasn’t lightning-strike electricity; this was therapeutic electricity. And it hurt like the dickens.

Somehow I managed to whip my body around and fling the electrode off, where it went SPLAT on the floor. Fattie went over and started investigating while I smacked the power button on the device. And that was how I learned to never, ever turn the TENS unit on while the electrodes were not in their proper positions.

So here’s how I wear the TENS and the back brace:

Those shirts can hide a lot. (Deviously copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

Those shirts can hide a lot. (Deviously copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

For your reference, I am 5′ 7″ish tall. I currently weigh about 157 pounds, which refuses to go down despite exercising and diet because of my medication increasing my appetite and a metabolism that is slow as molasses going up a hill in January. However, there’s a lot of clothing magic I can still perform. Like with dresses!

I talked about this in my first post, but let’s revisit the topic. Clothing and medical devices can be hard. Even Googling it is difficult; I had to finally search for how people hide insulin pumps. Those are generally smaller than TENS devices, but the principle is the same. Other smart people have spread the word as well and offer advice: Clip it to the front of your bra. Wear a garter under your dress. Hook it up to your belt. There are even pump bands. I have always been partial to Ruthanna Kuhn on Etsy; her lace garter belts are perfect for wearing a TENS under a flared dress. Or for carrying a gun. You know. Whichever.

Wearing a medical device can feel embarrassing. I have an overweight friend who doesn’t like being out in public because people stare at her. Those sidelong glances from people when she goes to the gym feel as obvious as laser beams. That’s how I sometimes feel when wearing a TENS unit. I feel like everyone can see everything about me. Or they just look at me and wonder what’s wrong. What’s the matter with her? 

It’s gotten to the point where I’m defiant about it. Sure, I’ll go into a changing room at the gym in order to place the electrodes on my back, but then I’ll walk out in my pants and bra to the main locker room, my back brace fully visible, my wire and electrodes exposed. I see people glancing at me, trying to be subtle while they dry their hair and sneak glances in the mirror. It doesn’t bother me anymore. Yes, I’m pretty much bionic. This is me. This is what I need to do.

So I put on my shirt, throw on a cardigan, and start my day.


  1. That’s really clever disguising of medical objects wish I could hide my wrist braces. On the upside if some one upsets me I can always smack them with the metal plate on the inside of my arm 😉.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How big is the wrist brace? This probably isn’t comparable, but my friend got a tattoo she wanted to hide and would wear huge bangles, gorgeous statement pieces that covered the tattoo. Another woman I met in the park one day soon after my surgery was like, “Oh my gosh, you too?” as she pointed at my cervical collar. I was like, WTF are you talking about, lady? Then I realized she’d used her scarf to hide her own cervical collar. It was ingenious. Maybe we can come up with some awesome cover-up! And I like the head-smacking with the metal plate, go you! 🙂


      • Its only those jumpers with extra long sleeves and thumb holes that hide these beauties but like the scarf idea as I might be getting something to support my neck


      • Yes I wore some knitted ones over the winter but it’s starting to warm up now so I’ll have to look for some lace ones like a victorian lady!


  2. I was looking for different ideas to hold my quell device and found this page somehow. I wonder if quell would be helpful for you in lieu of your TENS device. I loved my TENS (Tony little tens from hsn was my last and greatest) but quell imho is TENS 3.0. either way, I use Cavilon No Sting Barrier Film before I place my electrodes. you can use any type of barrier film to protect your skin from the electrodes, it should help. take care.


  3. I cannot resist my self after seeing one post which is on Tens Machine. I still remember that pain, it is unbearable. Then one of my friend suggested Tens Machine and I bought that from . This works as GOD for me, helps me to relax from my pain. I suggest every one who suffers from unbearable pain. Try Tens Machine. It works.


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