Tens device relieves symptoms from restless legs syndrome without the use of drugs, a non-medical treatment for RLS

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Some background information about TENS:

In the U.S. the sales of TENS devices (stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is regulated by the FDA and a presciption from a medical professional is required to purchase one commercially. They cost anywhere from $40 on up. They all function basically the same way. Using a battery power source the TENS device produces a high voltage but low current signal at a specified frequency and duration. This electrical current is applied externally to the skin of the body using sticky foam electrode pads. The more expensive units have advanced features like dual-channels, programmable functions, a digital readout, etc. They have been around for many years and are used by doctors, therapists, chiropractors, rehab clinics, college and professional sports organizations and individuals. Anyone seeking relief from muscle aches and pain that does not involve the use of drugs. I found some basic guidance about using a TENS unit specifically for RLS at this site: http://www.ehow.com/how_4597657_electric-nerve-stimulation-restless-legs.html.


I am not a medical professional. I am providing this web page for informational purposes only. A TENS unit should not be used by anyone who wears a heart pacemaker or defibrillator. It should never be used about the head or neck. If you have been diagnosed with epilepsy or have been told you are pregnant you should not use a TENS device. If you make or use this device you do so at your own risk and I accept no responsibility for the outcome.

My Restless Legs Story

I created this web page to try and help others out there who suffer from RLS. In my search for some kind of help I found little serious discussion or useful information on the internet concerning using a TENS unit to relieve the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome or for RLS treatment. Surprisingly there does not appear there have ever been any credible medical studies of the potential benefits either. I've had RLS since I was a child. More so now as I'm middle age. I have the typical symptoms... sitting down after a day of work and the legs start to jerk and twitch away to the point I sometimes have to go to bed early just to get some relief. Usually this is enough to get them to subside but sometimes, on really bad days, the RLS seems to follow me to bed. I've been building electronic projects since I was a teenager and I had made a simple electrical nerve stimulator a few years ago from a circuit I found on the internet. I used it for a bad knee and even for some very bad back strains. Always with excellent results. Basically, the device overrides the nerve impulses to the brain that are causing the pain (or twitches in the case of RLS) and, for a time, fool the brain that they no longer exist. Even when you turn the device off the benefits of the stimulation treatment continues for several days more. The pain/symptoms stop. It's that simple.

using electrical nerve stimulation or TENS to treat RLS with electronics you can build yourself from basic off the shelf parts

Now I use my TENS unit for controlling my RLS symtoms. When the tingling and twitching gets so bad I cannot sit calmly or even go to sleep I stick the pads on the back of each leg (see diagram) about half way between my butt and my knee. If I stand up and bend at the knees slightly I can feel the muscle tighten on the back of my leg. This is where I place the pads for maximum benefit. I get into bed and place the circuit board on my chest. At first I can feel the pulses very clearly. They are like a mild pin prick. Over time they get fainter and fainter to the point I have to think about them to really feel them. There is no discomfort whatsoever, and for me, the relief is relatively quick. Within minutes the nasty jerking effects of my RLS are gone and I'm off to sleepy time. I leave the nerve stimulator on all night. I have had absolutely no side effects to this treatment and the effect lasts a good 3 to 5 days. It is really quite remarkable how such a simple and inexpensive device can have such a positive effect on my life!

How does this TENS device work? The small, simple circuit shown here is basically an electronic timer (using the NE555) wired to create a very short, low voltage pulse approximately ten times per second (10hz rate). The IRF 510 MOSFET (basically a switch) together with a reversely connected power transformer amplifies that pulse into a high voltage, low current signal. It is this signal that is connected by about six feet of two-lead wire to two electrode pads. Each pad is two inches square and is made of sticky foam on one side and a cloth backing on the other. A short wire with a female pin connector protrudes from each pad. These pads are placed on the skin of ones body and are held in place by the adhesive. They can be used over and over many times but at some point will need to be replaced when they fail to adhere. The pulse is harmless and feels like a tingle or pin prick.

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Sourcing the parts and building the TENS device

I found you can locate all the parts for the TENS unit from any good electronics supply house. Mouser Electonics is one source that I often use. Purchased together they did not cost me more than $10 plus a little time to construct. The power transformer is connected backwards to form a step-up circuit. As to the electrode pads, they are not FDA regulated and I'm able to buy all I need without a prescription from any number of online sources. They run me around $10 for a pack of four. I prefer the square ones but the rounds ones will work just fine. I adjust the amplitude (pulse strength) to the point below where the stimulation is slightly painfull but not so low as it cannot be felt. The nerve stimulator draws little power from the 9v. battery and will last for several weeks. When I feel the pulse is weakening when first connected it is time to change out the battery.

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