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Electrotherapy for Bladder and Bowel

Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy as a medical treatment, which can involve the use of tools like a TENS machine – transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. These tools are well known for their use in pain management, but research also supports their use for bowel and bladder dysfunction in children (like slow transit constipation, a lazy bowel or an overactive bladder). 

 

How does it work?

Modified electrical pulses are passed from the electrotherapy machine, via the wires and electrodes, to the nerves which lie underneath the skin surface. 

 

By targeting nerves, the electrodes can be placed on the lower back or leg, so they do not have to be in an uncomfortable or invasive position. This means you can easily take part in sedentary activities while the TENS machine is on – like playing a board game or watching TV. 

 

Using the machine is a long-term commitment. For the bladder, it takes 6 weeks to 3 months. For slow transit constipation, it can be 6 – 12 months. However, if you are doing everything well, you are likely to know within 2-4 weeks if it is going to be beneficial. 

 

What will it help with?

For the bladder, it builds the awareness of the nerves in this area, helping it better communicate with the brain so that you can more accurately feel when it is full or empty.

 

For the bowel, it can increase sensation, soften poos and help get bowel movements more regular. By avoiding constipation, it can also reduce accidents.

 

Who is it suitable for?

  • Over 4 years old
  • If you have tried other interventions and have not seen improvements
  • You must have the ability to implement this into daily routine long term
  • Your child needs to be motivated to engage and be able to communicate any potential issues with the device
  • For clients with diagnoses including overactive bladder or a slow/lazy bowel. 

 

There are certain contraindications, that mean the device should not be used if your child has any of the following: active bleeding, diabetes, cancer, a pacemaker, any metal in the body, neurological conditions, and an inability to communicate if issues arise. 

 

Side effects

Research suggests no serious side effects have been found. It can cause diarrhea, which was the reason for investigating the use of electrical stimulation for constipation in the first place.

 

If you think this may be a suitable option for your child, contact our team who can support you in using this device!


SIENNA SMILEY

Occupational Therapist

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