The Day The Electrodes Won

It is easy to mistrust technology when it has electrified the bejeezers out of you. A repost today: the story of my schism from, and reuniting with, a singular, tingular little machine.

I first met the little machine which was to prove my nemesis, in a cosy sitting room, in a house somewhere at the foot of Dartmoor.

There, I was growing more matronly day by day, and expecting the birth of a lovely bouncing baby.

The whole pregnancy thing was new to me. In truth, I never really became accustomed to it. Nature compulsorily purchases you and turns you into a child-growing factory.

My midwife sat me down and told me that I needed the little machine in question – a TENS machine-, to relieve the early stages of discomfort which I could expect from childbirth.

It consists of a couple of pads which one attached to one’s lower back, where back pain tends to be. It has a dial. It administers tiny electrical impulses to the muscles, relaxing them. Keep it low, and you get lovely little tingles which relax one’s musicles perfectly. Turn it up and the tingles become more and more insistent.

I never, of course, turned it up that far.

It was a great help. I found it restful, relieving, restorative. It and I were buddies, which was good, because by this time no-one else could get close enough to me to offer any kind of group hug.

Three years later, I found I was once more with child, and there was no time for the TENS machine.

A month before Felix was forecast to hit the ground running, he began to make himself plainly understood. He has never lost this capacity. It was evident he was becoming impatient for a little action, and he was coming out if that was all right with me. Or even, possibly, if it wasn’t.

Heaving a sigh, I grabbed the suitcase and headed for the labour ward.

A very clever midwife looked me up and down. Her ward was full to bursting because it seemed every prospective child in the area felt the same way as Felix. She housed myself and my husband in an enchantingly pretty little room, and she took measures to calm me down so much that Felix would reconsider his decision.

And once we were ensconced in that lovely little place, she gave me a TENS machine.

I had forgotten how to use it. I stared at the machine with the very same mixture of incomprehension that I had used with the chemist’s shop assistant three years before. I attached the pads to my back, and I sat back on the sumptuous bed.

I must have been watching an exciting television programme, or engaged in a particularly animated conversation with my husband, because about a minute after this, my hand slipped.

Round went the knob to the maximum setting. And I shot up in the air and began, vociferously, both to dance and to protest.

At times of pressure, is it not the cruellest joke of all that our ability to communicate opens the nearest window and jumps out?

My words became incomprehensible, if slightly comical,screeches. Phil was trying mightily to decipher these, and divine why his heavily pregnant wife was now doing a light-stepping insane tarantella round the chintzy room, but he drew a blank.

Eventually, by sizing up my overt non-verbal language, he managed to glean enough information to realise that the little unassuming machine was at fault.

We both grabbed the machine and tore it off. And sat there, breathless. I savoured the sensation of not being attached to over-enthusaiastic electrodes. The aftermath was strangely cathartic.

And then we settled down to work out what we would tell the midwife about the dishevelled state of her machine and its now less than perfect electrical wiring.

I never saw one again: until today’s physio appointment.

The nice lady physio brandished a tens machine. “Hold on there while I put these pads on,” she said, and everything in me wanted to make a mad dash for the street from whence I had come.

But I was already out of puff, and she looked fit enough to tackle me and win. So I let her put them on.

Now, she said, how’s this? And she turned the dial.

I became a pastiche of that painting: you know, The Scream?

She read my body language and turned it down to the minimum setting. Then she gave me the controller, and said: you do it, then. Every time you feel comfortable, turn it up.

I did. I had ten minutes on that tens machine, controlling my minor demon with an electric dial. And when I walked out of the clinic, I was floating about two feet off the ground due to elation, electricity and a feeling of distinct self-worth.

I smiled foolishly all the way round the supermarket.

Picture source here


42 thoughts on “The Day The Electrodes Won

  1. I’ve heard of TENS but had no idea exactly how it worked or that it was used for women in labor. It sounds like a blessing, used properly. But I insist on hard drugs for real pain, and childbirth is definitely real pain (and I am the world’s bigggest wus).

    1. Thanks Doc 🙂 You have made my day. “Way” came to us in the UK from Mike Myers (a hero of mine) and Wayne’s World. No-one’s ever actually said that to me before 😀

  2. Hahahaha ~ You do make me laugh.

    I too used a Tens machine for all three of my labours and the thought of it be turning up to high makes me scared !!!

  3. *sagely* If we wos meant to do those sorts of things, we would have been fitted with lightning rods. ‘Taint nacheral, that’s wotty taint.
    I wonder if one would have the same thing going for one with a half-second burst from my tazer?

    1. You had me in stitches with that comment. You have the accent down to a tee.

      I suspect a tazer might possess quite a kick. A sledgehammer to crack a nut, so to speak 😀

  4. Oh, Kate, I’m sorry but I’m laughing at the picture you paint, hopping around the room. I’ve never had a tens moment, but, I know I would not want my Tom anywhere near one. He has a penchant for fiddling with the dials of things and hitting the wrong button . . .

  5. I went to a chiropractor that used one of these machines after doing the usual cracking and popping. I would lay prone while the machine was set to a level just below where it would make my body jump around involuntarily. It usually felt pretty good and did help relax the muscles a bit.

    Can’t imagine how wild it must have been for you when you whacked the dial to max and did the Frug at 100 miles an hour. YIKES!! One of those situations that would be hilarious if not for the little “pain” involved.

  6. A TENS unit during labor?! How brilliant!!! I own one of these miracle contraptions thanks to two herniated discs that wreak all sorts of havoc on my lower back and sciatic nerve, so I use it regularly and thankfully. I only wish I could have had it during labor with my babes…it was never mentioned.
    I know exactly the shock of having it too high, and giggle at your description. I had a similar experience, not once, but twice at my PT’s office. Thanks to a malfunctioning machine, I got zapped when he hit the switch. I swear I rose at least a foot off the table and an unearthly gurgling scream came from somewhere in my throat. My PT apologized profusely and said he had never had that happen to a patient before. When I returned for my next appointment, he assured me that the unit had been serviced and they could find nothing wrong with it. They did, however, change out all the wires, and he was certain it could not happen again. The unit had been in use for the week and it had happened to no other patients. Well, wouldn’t you know, it DID happen again…to ME! Except this time when I flew off the table and screamed, he laughed thinking I was playing a cruel joke on him. I believe that once my eyes began to bulge out of my skull, he realized I was indeed NOT joking. He never put me in that room with that unit again. 😉

    1. Hi Kanniduba – thanks for that comment with is hilarious in retrospect 😀 I find my muscles bunching just thinking about your ordeal! That PT has a lot of questions to answer….

  7. Hehe, I’m so glad that you have won over that tricky little contraption. Hope the physio’s nothing serious, I used to hate the stuff myself and am now slightly suspicious of TENS machines to boot. 😉

  8. I’ve heard of them, surely, but never seen one or known exactly how it works. You paint quite a picture! Here I am laughing at your pain. Hmmm. I would probably be fearful I’d find a way to harm myself with anything this technological, but pain would be a great motivator to learn otherwise. I hope it works WELL for you! Debra

    1. If you even have rumbling, continuous, grinding pain, Debra, it is worth thinking about. (I can’t believe I’m saying that!) There is no doubt that it relieves pain like that and can make one feel much happier.

      Just watch the dial 🙂

  9. Incredibly funny, you – I love this! And now I’m wondering where I can get hold of one of these Tens thingies… Oh ho hum, maybe I should just stretch-exercise my back more between these long stretches of time I freeze (frieze?) in front of this blasted computing machine? {to said machine: there, there, I didn’t mean it} 😀

    1. You’ll have to unruffle a few cyberfeathers, Ruth, talking in front of the PC like that! I have no idea whether stretches are better than TENS; but I could get hooked on that just-electrified afterglow.

  10. I hated the machine I had – for me, no pain relief, just an

    irritation! Good thing we are all different 🙂

  11. Can I put this thing on my head when I have a migraine? Would it even matter if I couldn’t but did it anyway? Would it wipe my brain?


    I, too, love the picture of you hopping around the room, heavily with child. Did you end up in labor as a result? Did Felix come then, or did he wait?

    1. I agree – what was the effect on Felix? Or is it only just beginning to be apparent? 🙂

  12. I’d be quite terrified of using it, frankly. I am quite phobic about wires and electricity (and steam) anywhere near me. So I can imagine what a high it must be for you to have actually used it once again, after your ‘Felix’ experience.

  13. Kate, I love all your posts . . . but I am especially fond of those, like this one, which contain generous glints and hints of humor and mirth. 😆

  14. I found tens machine useful in earlier days of slipped disc but for some reason always found it strange talking on the phone at the same time. Glad you are recovered !

      1. I have enjoyed the pleasures of contact with ringing current and mains electricity… not something I’d recommend that you try 😉

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