Have you ever considered using electricity, in the form of a TENS Belt, to tighten those muscles? If so you might want to think again. TENS, which stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is a method of treating pain used by physical therapists. However, America being what it is, this medical device has made its way to the general public in the form of a TENS Belt which is used to tighten abs without working out. You can even tighten those abs while watching TV – or so the ads go.
My article today is about a client of mine who used such a device with unexpected results. Last week she called the spa to make an appointment with me for a Neuromuscular Massage Treatment because she was getting severe pain in her left leg. She had seen her doctor the previous day for the pain and he diagnosed her with phlebitis (an inflammation of a vein). My assessment of her leg showed extreme sensitivity to pressure (the slightest touch caused severe shooting pains) and hypertonic (tight) muscles in the adductors (inner thigh muscles) and gluteal areas.
I work on clients daily with pain caused by a vast variety of reasons, however, I had never seen anything quite like this. If my client did not just come from her doctor I would have recommended that she see one. However, something else was different this time. My client told me she had been using a TENS belt. Obviously, I have no clinical evidence of this, however I believe, and her doctor has subsequently agreed, that there is a high probability that the TENS belt over stimulated the client’s nervous system causing her symptoms. I was able to release the muscles in the area and calm the nerves down using heat and ice, however, that was not the end of it. Her pain in her leg was gone, but pain in her abdominal area started.
It is still not clear what is causing this pain but she did find out something new yesterday about the TENS belt. Hidden among its approximately eight pages of warnings – warnings which include such things as don’t put this belt around your neck – was a warning relevant to her: Don’t use this device if you have a hernia. Due to the vast number of warnings, many of which were simply ridiculous or common sense, she had missed this one. My client was diagnosed with a hernia about two years ago.
Whether or not her pain is related to using the TENS belt with a hernia, or whether it just over stimulated her abdominal muscles or nerves is not clear. Again, we do not actually have clinical evidence that the TENS belt caused all of this – maybe it was all a huge coincidence.
So what is the point of this whole post? Well the point is this. There are no safe shortcuts to fitness. The further you move away from simple mainstream exercises by adding electronic devices, taking wonder supplements, using a 3 minute a day super exercise routine, or whatever, the more careful you have to be. Every warning must be read in detail, and the device, supplement, or routine should be discussed with your doctor and/or someone with the training to understand the new fangled exercise enhancer you are considering using.
Better yet, just stick to the simple stuff. Sit ups, push up, and squats may not be sexy but you can do them while watching TV if you want. They will get you in shape in a healthy and natural way. If you are struggling with getting in shape, invest that money you where going to spend on QVC in a session with a personal trainer. He can show you how to tighten those abs safely – lets save the electricity to power your iPod while on the treadmill.