When I think of electricity and pain, a scene from “Return of the Jedi” tends to pop into my head, the one in which the evil Emperor is zapping Luke with lightning bolts from his finger tips. Having experienced the incompetence of an electrical shock more than once in my life, I can sympathize with poor Luke Skywalker as he wriths around on the ground as electrical bolts play up and down his body. It is not like he is merely feeling the tingle that results from sticking the tip of your tongue on a nine volt battery. Still, while electricity can be dangerous (especially in the hands of someone who has joined the dark side) that mild tingling sensation that you get when you touch your tongue to a nine volt battery can actually help alleviate pain.
By blocking pain signals from reaching your brain, low intensity electrical pulses can actually help with cases of chronic pain. Physicians have known about this since the time of the Ancient Greeks. While the Greeks did not have nine volt batteries, they did have electric eels. It was discovered that placing a painful part of the body in a bucket with an electric eel helped alleviate the pain. While no one was really sure how it worked, the eel bucket trick was used for centuries to help alleviate the pain from gout.
Today, scientists have a much better idea why this phenomenon occurs. Pain, it turns out, is actually “all in your head” just like your high school coach told you it was. Pain is actually a useful thing in most cases, triggering your brain that something is causing damage to you, triggering action such as removing your hand from a hot surface or doing your best to get out of Emperor Palpatine's line of fire. These pain impulses are actually electrical signals that are sent up the spinal column and then to the brain triggering a response in the nerves. While these pain signals can be seen as a beneficial way to keep us from getting our fingers burned off, they can also become the problem in the case of chronic pain.
In the case of chronic pain, such as lower back pain, these pain messages have become constant to the point of are detrimental. Even though we already know all about the problem, our bodies continue to shoot us pain signals making life rather miserable. This is where electricity can come in handy. Since there are only a select number of messages that your brain can receive at any given time, it is possible to override the chronic pain signals by replacing it with some other sensation, in this case the tingling sensation of low pulse electricity. By applying electrodes to the area of chronic pain and then pulsing electricity through it, you can actually temporarily block out the chronic pain and find some relief.
Since the bucket of eels is not longer politically correct, medical researchers have come up with other devices which can help deliver these electrical signals. One such device is the TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) device. This device is a portable battery operated device that a person can use to find temporary relief from chronic pain. One such device called the AuraWave has even been recently cleared by the FDA for non prescription use. If you can not get your hands on some eels, or if you do not think you can convince the Emperor to use his powers for the good of pain relief, this TENS Device is certainly something that is worth checking out.