Taking Advantage Of The Benefits Of TENS
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief.
Electrical stimulation for pain control is not a new concept, as it was used around 63 A.D in ancient Rome to relieve pain. Throughout history, electrostatic devices have been used to treat headaches and other pains. One well-known proponent of this pain relief method was Benjamin Franklin.
The modern TENS unit is small (about the size of a pocket radio) and battery operated. Clinical studies have proven its effectiveness and many persons rely on it for self-administered, at-home treatment for various types of pain.
Benefits Of TENS
One theory proposes that electricity stimulates the nerves in the affected area and sends signals to the brain, blocking and scrambling normal pain signals. A second theory suggests that electrical stimulation of the nerves helps produce endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) which block the perception of pain. Its benefits include:
- relief of muscle, joint, or bone problems occurring with illnesses such as fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis
- relief of non-odontogenic orofacial pain, that is pain felt in the mouth, jaws and face that is not dental-related
- diagnosis and treatment of pain and dysfunction of the muscles that move the jaw or temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)
- relieving low back pain, neck pain, tendinitis, or bursitis
- treating sudden (acute) pain, such as labor pain
- helping to manage long-lasting (chronic) pain, such as cancer pain
How To Use A TENS Machine
The unit may be hooked to a belt and is connected to two or more electrodes. The electrode placement is subject to experimentation to find the positions that work best for you. Electrodes may be placed over the painful area, surrounding, over the nerve supplying the painful area, or on the opposite side of the body.
A physical therapist, acupuncturist, massage therapist or orthopedic specialist may advise the setting used on the machine and give you an overview of this simple therapy. It can be set for a steady flow or burst of electrical current and for intensity of the current. After receiving instructions, you can do the TENS treatment at home. It may take several days to find the placement that gives the best pain relief, so a home trial up to a few weeks is often recommended.
TENS is generally considered to be safe, but here are a few precautions to bear in mind.
- Do not use TENS if you have a pacemaker or another type of implanted electrical device
- Do not use TENS if you have epilepsy or a heart rhythm disorder
- Stop TENS and contact your doctor if you develop a rash or burn beneath the electrodes that lasts more than six hours.
- Do not use TENS while driving or operating machinery
- The electrodes should not be placed on broken or irritated skin.
- Do not use TENS if you’re pregnant
- The TENS unit should not be used with heating pads or cold packs.
- Do not use TENS while sleeping.
- Do not use TENS in the bath or shower
Check with your health care professional first if you have any concerns.
When properly used, TENS is a simple safe and effective method for relieving common pain complaints.