Will a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine help my CMT? How strong a current should I use?
Your question is tough to answer without knowing your specific situation and being able to evaluate you in person. I question what your goals are in using the unit? TENS units can be used for pain management. NMES (neuromuscular e-stim) units are similar, but work on activating muscles in certain patient populations.
Depending upon the type of CMT you have and its severity, your nerves may or may not be able to carry the appropriate sensory messages for your spinal cord and brain to interpret. In a person with normal sensation, the TENS unit starts at a sensory level and as it is turned up, the user passes to a motor threshold and starts to activate the muscles under the electrodes. When the toe and foot bend, the user has passed into the motor level. Depending on one’s ability to perceive the stimulation, this may be very uncomfortable or even unsafe. I would also be concerned about skin integrity. Be sure to check for redness under the electrodes after each session.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of the way a TENS unit works and the impact that it has on an individual with CMT. If you received your TENS unit from a physical therapist, he or she should be able to evaluate you and provide recommendations on how to use it for your particular situation.
Do you have recommendations for exercises to help maintain my muscles that are still functioning?
We have created an exercise program specifically for people with CMT. The link to the videos is:
In many cases, low-impact exercise such as pool therapy, yoga and light stretching is recommended. Please ask your doctor what exercise is right for you. Working with a physical therapist who knows CMT is also highly recommended.