It’s something most women will experience for the majority of their lives, and for me, it’s the most inconvenient, annoying part of being female.
I basically have to block out ten days a month, where I’ll experience back pain, sore boobs, terrible skin, mood swings and crippling stomach cramps that make it hard to sit up, move, or focus on what I’m doing.
It makes working near impossible and, for the last 13 years, it’s been the bane of my existence. Until now.
In recent months, I’ve moved in with my boyfriend, which means that he’s seen the full spectrum of my periods – me snapping at him over tiny things, moaning about a huge zit on my chin or curled into a ball on the bed in excruciating pain.
One day, he sat looking at me going through some particularly horrendous waves of stomach cramps. ‘You’d think they’d have fixed this by now,’ he idly commented.
‘What?’ I panted, barely able to focus on what he was saying.
‘You know, women being the way they are. Period pains that mean they can barely do anything for several days a month. It just seems so… primitive.’
‘What’s your point?’ I said, hardly in the mood for his laid-back analysis of how shit my body was at handling the pain of shedding its uterus lining every four weeks.
‘There has to be something that can stop it.’
‘Feel free to look,’ I said, closing my eyes so I could try to sleep it off.
A few days later, he produced a small silver box and a tangle of wires.
‘What the fuck is that?’
‘It’s a TENS device. You stick these pads to your stomach where it hurts and it sends electrical currents through your body. It’ll get rid of the period pain. In theory.
So, I now know that TENS machines are widely used for pain relief in childbirth and for arthritis and back pain – but at the point, I had no idea what it was.
‘Oh, hell no.’ I was not giving myself an electric shock to fix my periods. Was he insane?
‘Trust me? Please?’
I frowned at him. He’d told me to trust that his favourite super-spicy Indian takeaway was good, but I’d responded to that by having crippling heartburn for two days. His track record counted against him – but if it did actually fix my period pain…
‘Alright, fuck it. Fine. Let’s wait until the cramps get bad again and see if it actually works.’
An hour later, I was curled up in a ball again.
‘Lift your top up.’
‘What? Now’s hardly the ti- oh. The creepy box thing. Yeah. OK.’
He placed some sticky pads on my stomach, then turned up a dial on the box.
A few seconds later, I straightened out.
‘It’s gone. It’s literally gone. How does that even work? Can I turn it up more?’
‘Yeah, this is like the lowest setting.’
I fiddled with the dials, no longer convinced I was going to be electrocuted, and turned them up. Instead of crippling stomach cramps, I was experiencing what felt like a mild echo of pain – and a tickling sensation.
‘What’s this thing called again?’
‘A TENS device. It stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.’
I frowned. He was talking nerd jargon again. But it was nerd stuff that appeared to be fixing a huge part of my life, so I stopped pulling faces and listened.
‘It uses electric currents to stimulate nerves in the body so it soothes them and stops pain from feeling so bad. This box helps to change the frequency and intensity of the current. They were pretty cheap on Amazon so I bought two – I’m going to see if it helps with my back pain.’
I stood up and headed to the bathroom. A load of wires bounced off me as I walked. He sniggered. ‘You look like a cyborg.’
I looked down. He had a point. But I didn’t feel irritable anymore, so he didn’t get snapped at. The pain was gone.
I kept the machine on for two hours that first time and used it across the next few days. I have since used it for every period on the worst days. Sometimes it doesn’t get rid of the pain like it did the first time, but it does make it manageable, taking it down to a mild headache level. Regardless, it’s fixed the problem I had, which was too much pain to move or get anything done. Now, I can get rid of the pain every time my period strikes. Cyborg wires for the win.