a tens unit on an arm with electricity shooting out

I Tried (and Bought) a TENS Unit

Last updated: July 2021

So, picture this. I am walking through a big convention center filled with hundreds of vendors all displaying (most not selling) all manner of devices, ideas, or medications related to arthritis. I happen on this one booth where they are not selling medications which means I can tell them that I'm a non-medical professional. That was my first, we will call it a mistake.

The rules of attending an American College of Rheumatology meeting

This was the scene at the last American College of Rheumatology (ACR) meeting I attended which was held in Chicago in 2018. It was a rough convention for me. I ended up with a broken foot, I had a gastric issue that caused me to call my doctor to get a prescription transferred to a local CVS, and then I got lost. I mean going to the convention center I got lost (several times), it was embarrassing. So, if you can imagine my body was hurting badly by the end of the third day.

So as a non-medical professional I am not allowed to talk to anyone selling a prescription product. I can go to the technical and learning sessions which were wonderful. But no talking to the salespeople about medicine or devices requiring a prescription. That was part of the written terms I had to sign to go on in the exhibit hall. I could look, I could pick up literature, but I could not talk to anyone. The reason is that in the United States pharmaceutical and device companies are not allowed to sell anything directly to the consumer. This is vastly different in the rest of the world whereas as a patient I am allowed to go to the exhibit hall and fully participate.

The conference product display area

I am walking through this vast convention space filled with hundreds of vendors. I have picked up some convention trinkets, a stress ball here or there, a keychain, and some literature. The sessions I wish to attend are complete for the day and I see this booth with comfortable chairs and what looks like people getting their back massaged. Even before I know it I am in one of the chairs and this fellow is telling me the benefits of his product.

It is a miracle, it treats rheumatoid arthritis, reduces inflammation, wipes away stress, and brings couples even closer. It is a special product because it can be used with my wife who will love it. Do not bring back some cheap souvenir he said buy this instead, and she will swear you have been the best husband ever. You want that right?  Well sure I guess; I mean I think I am doing a rather good job anyway. Well, not as good a job as if you brought this home.

What is this miracle product I inquire? Your very own TENS unit just like they use at the doctor’s office. Ahh, my doctor does not use one of these. Oh, buy him one. You will be his best patient. I really like my doctor, but I will pass.

I now have these patches on my back and the electrical charge is at first like a jolt. I feel the stimulus and yes I have to say it feels good. It is relaxing and the tingle is novel.

The pitch

So, the big question how much?  Oh, guess what, we have a convention close-out special. We do not want to take hundreds of these home with us. Well of course not I say. So today the next to last day of the convention you can have this half off.  Wow, half off, I think. I am a deal seeker. So how much for this remarkable machine? It is $89.00 if I take it right now. Well, can you ship it to me? Sure, but then it will be $180 plus shipping. So, it is well worth it to place it in your luggage. Ok well, I guess. Oh, and remember you will be the best husband ever. Hmm best husband ever? Wow I like that part.

Getting home

I plop my credit card down and take it home. Once I get it home I hook it up and it starts to hum like a multipart mini jackhammer.  That was when Sheryl appeared. I could tell she was not impressed with this new thing I brought home. So, I explain this is a TENS unit, and you hook this up to a body part and turn on these leads that send electric tingles deep into your muscles. It feels so good.

Great, she says, show me. So, I got all hooked up and turn this thing on and it feels truly awful. The thing was shaking my body and my muscles were rippling like nothing I had ever felt. I turned it on 1 (the lowest) and could barely stand it. I said, hey Sheryl let's hook this up to you and me and we can enjoy it together. She said, no one is hooking me up to that thing.

I put it away and marveled at how wrong I had been. I tried it half a dozen times and the results were the same each time. It was just brutal. I tried everything, and it was never comfortable. I called the company for further instructions. They were, less than nice. I say that because the 800 number was disconnected. Nice people do not disconnect 800 numbers from their customer service group.

I looked at the instructions and they were written in Cyrillic so that wasn’t much help. I did figure out from a picture where not to put it. Trust me I would never place it there and no way was I even asking Sheryl.  Eventually, I gave up. But all was not lost. See, this friend of mine asked has anyone ever used a TENS unit? I said oh yes, and if you want one I will send it to you. That was the best donation I ever made. However, I never heard if it helped her or not. Frankly, I am afraid to ask. Oh, and yes the salesperson was right. Sheryl and I were drawn closer together as we both delighted when I put it in the mail.

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