WHAT IS IT?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy is the use of a low-voltage electric current to relieve pain symptoms. It is done with a battery operated TENS device. It has small wires that are connected to sticky pads called electrodes. Electrodes are placed on the body at the site of pain as a medium to deliver energy through the nerve fibers. When the machine is turned on the patient will feel a tingling sensation in the area that the pads are placed. These electrical pulses control pain signals at the nerve site by blocking the pain receptors from being sent to the brain and therefore creating relief from pain. They also stimulate the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers.
The intensity and frequency of the electrical currents are adjusted to suit the needs of each individual. For patients going home with this treatment, the health care provider would educate the patient on the appropriate settings. Research has shown that a tolerance can be developed in patients consistently using the same frequency and intensity, therefore reducing the pain relief that they are experiencing. With professional guidance, the settings could be increased or alternated to prevent this.
For some people, pain relief is long-lasting, and others have found the need for repeated treatments. TENS sessions are short and can be administered as often as necessary.
WHAT DOES IT TREAT?
TENS therapy has been used to treat a variety of pain symptoms and conditions with great success. These include and are not limited to:
- neck and back pain
- sports related injuries
- Multiple sclerosis
- cancer pain
- reduce migraines
- urinary incontinence
There are many benefits to using TENS therapy including:
- It can be done at home with a small take home TENS unit.
- Gives the patient control of managing their pain.
- It is a non-invasive method for treating pain.
- It can help people to stay away from taking pain medications or narcotics and reducing risk of addictions, overdose or negative side effects.
- It can be used in addition to pharmaceutical drugs for breakthrough pain.
- TENS devices are portable and can be carried with you during the day for immediate pain relief.
- It is an affordable treatment and TENS devices can be found at your local pharmacy or online.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS OR RISKS?
For the most part, TENS therapy is considered a safe treatment. TENS therapy is a relatively new treatment and the effects of it on some groups of people are unknown and therefore best to be avoided at this time. These groups include people with epilepsy, heart problems, pacemakers or other electrical implants, or pregnant women unless otherwise recommended by a doctor or health care professional.
Some people have experienced a rash or itchiness at the placement of the sticky pads which may indicate ultra sensitive skin or an allergic reaction to the pads. Others find the prickling, tingling sensation uncomfortable. Placing the pads on the eyes or neck can have dangerous results. Also placing the pads on irritated or broken skin can further irritate the area. It is important to use the TENS device and pads as instructed for best results and to eliminate possible negative effects.
TENS therapy is still being researched. The results of this treatment have varied from person to person but greatly depends on the type of condition being treated and the treatment schedule.
TENS therapy has been known to reduce pain in a safe and natural way. With little to no side effects, it is a great option to trial. However, speaking with your doctor before trying TENS therapy would be advised.