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Thursday, 2 April 2015

The magic thumb

Pain. I know about that - a physiological necessity saying things are not as they should be. Message understood, treatment initiated: drugs, hot baths, crucifyingly intrusive massage, and a ban on lolling.

More pain. Look, I don't need extra messages: I accept I am defective. All right, already, I visit the quack who prescribes different drugs and an x-ray appointment at some unknown date.

Another sleepless night. Daughter, Professional Bleeder, suggests TENS Digital Pain Reliever; it worked for her and "it only costs eleven quid." Actually it costs sixteen quid. TENS, or transcutaneous ("through-the-skin") electrical nerve stimulator, requires me to stick sensor pads round the achy bit. So disappointing, so 1950s.

But the pharmacist at least has faith. "Don't turn it to max to begin with," she warns. With three 1.5V AAAs it's not exactly the electric chair.

At home we fiddle distractedly then break for a live-screen transmission of The Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny (Brecht/Weill) from the Royal Opera House. By now it’s 23.30. Culturally replete I put aside TENS and doze as if in a drum dryer.

The following morning TENS burbles faintly against my skin at level one. Feeble.  Why not whack it up to level four?

Jeepers! What’s this? As if a giant purposeful thumb were smearing itself over the achy bit south-east of my shoulder blade. I can almost sense the thumb-print. Over and over for half an hour. I write inspired prose as the ache fades. Another half hour and it’s gone. Probably temporarily but never mind; for the moment that’ll do.

All hail the Dongdoin Technology Co Ltd, Shenzhen, China.


  1. Late at night on network tv you can watch Dr. Ho pitching his miracle pain-killing machine. We have a friend who sings Dr Ho's praises for his invention. Whether it's a tooth, the spine or any other kind of hideous distraction, chronic pain is punishing. My doctor once told me the most dreaded stuff usually comes without pain, so I hope you are safe from any thing harmful. I have some nice old Scotches that I wish I could deliver through the screen.

  2. I've heard of TENS before but doubted its efficacy. It's wonderful to hear from an actual user, especially one (you) not easily fooled, that it really works! I shall keep it in mind whenever the need for pain relief arises.ng
    Meanwhile, I hope it keeps on working for you.

  3. Stella: Newspapers in the twenties and thirties were full of ads for junk like this. I was suspicious, even though it only cost peanuts. Perhaps because it cost peanuts. But PB was adamant. And it has proved to be a great comfort. I doubt the alleviation will be permanent but at least I'm not stuffing myself with products from Big Pharma.

    Natalie: Temporary relief is better than no relief. Went out for a super Thai dinner last night and at the height of delight I switched on. It added to the pleasure. I am now pondering testing it with other sensory activities.

  4. Any warnings against shaving your temples and applying the pads there? I would consider a duplicate purchase, one device for the achy area, one for experimentation. And if other sore spots develop (you know they will) you may end up with a dozen such zappers affixed and running. Seriously, glad it helps, and I'd now consider a purchase of such a gizmo.

  5. Wait! You may want to glance at this before trying anything else:

  6. MikeM: The massage sensation is unique and utterly unexpected - an ingenious combination of stimuli which replicates, more or less exactly, the feelings generated by human fingers. The end result is both soothing and pleasantly distracting. I sort of expected the pain to return immediately afterwards but it didn't for several hours. These delays are getting longer. I read the NYT article; talk about being unimpressed!

  7. Ok! But don't blame the Times....it's from The New Yorker.

  8. I know the location of this achy spot and have the feeling that auto-stimuli has kicked in and that you are on your way out of this mess. I say auto-stimuli because you not being fearful of moving in your usual way, the nerve is now relaxing. If VR disagrees with me I'll eat my words.
    Stay well.

  9. MikeM: The huge length of the article should have reminded me.

    Ellena: I have had remissions before. There are other people who will need proof: the GP, the X-ray machine operator, the masseur, and the pharmacist.

  10. I have had an excruciating shoulder for about 3 months - should I try it, do you think?

  11. Avus: Isn't £10 (for the cheapo, single channel model) worth spending, even if there's only a tiny chance of it working? I spoke to my other daughter, Occasional Speeder, over lunch and she hired a TENS after childbirth nine years ago when these units cost hundreds. It worked for her as it did for OB and me. How cheap does it have to get? What would you prefer to spend a tenner on, or are you saving money for your old age? There I go, being blunt again.

    Of course you could spend the tenner at William Hill on a May 7 flutter with Ukip.

    Let me emphasise - you'll be half-convinced it's doing you good by the unique sensation TENS generates. I dare you to try and predict it.

    Avalable Lloyds Pharmacies.

  12. Well, I have ordered one and we will see........