Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has been a therapeutic staple in physical therapy and chronic pain clinics for decades. TENS is a therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world for the relief of physical pain. Doctors, nurses, and patient technicians often recommend that their patients use a TENS Unit for minor and major pain relief.
What is a TENS Unit and how does it work?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief. Usually, you connect two electrodes (wires that conduct electrical current) from the machine to your skin. The electrodes are often placed on the area of pain or at a pressure point, creating a circuit of electrical impulses that travels along nerve fibers.
When the current is delivered, some people experience less pain. This may be because the electricity from the electrodes stimulates the nerves in an affected area and sends signals to the brain that block or “scramble” normal pain signals. Another theory is that the electrical stimulation of the nerves may help the body to produce natural painkillers called endorphins, which may block the perception of pain.
You can set the TENS machine for different wavelength frequencies, such as a steady flow of electrical current or a burst of electrical current, and for intensity of electrical current. Your physical therapist, acupuncturist, or doctor usually determines these settings.
What are some of the commons uses for a TENS Unit?
People use TENS Units to relieve pain for numerous types of illnesses and conditions. Used most often to treat muscle, joint, or bone problems including conditions such as arthritis, low back pain, neck pain, tendinitis, or bursitis. People have also used TENS to treat sudden (acute) pain, such as labor pain, and long-lasting (chronic) pain, such as cancer pain.
Are TENS Units Safe?
When a TENS Unit is used as directed it is a safe, noninvasive, and drug-free method of pain management. Have your physical therapist or doctor show you the proper way to use the machine, and follow these instructions carefully. Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.
How much should a TENS Unit cost?
Over the past several years market competition has driven the price of over-the-counter devices down significantly. In fact, some TENS Units that were being sold for $300+ can often be found for $50 or below. These less expensive devices might lack the capabilities of larger TENS machines, but they provide nearly the same benefit as their larger more expensive cousin, the Medical-Grade TENS Unit.
Should I buy a TENS Unit?
My position is that a TENS Unit works well enough to warrant trying, but keep your expectations realistic. Don’t expect any miracles. Nevertheless usage can potentially replace other forms of treatment.
It’s approved as safe by the FDA and offers a great alternative to chemical treatments. Many pills and other medications have a number of additives that are unnatural and not good for your body.