What is a TENS unit and does it work?

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit is a battery-operated device that some people use to treat pain.TENS units work by delivering small electrical impulses through electrodes that have adhesive pads to attach them to a person’s skin. These electrical impulses flood the nervous system, reducing its ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain.

The same electrical impulses also stimulate the body to produce natural pain relievers called endorphins. In this article, learn more about the uses of a TENS machine and the research on its effectiveness.

Uses

TENS units may help treat the following symptoms:

  • period pain
  • labour pain
  • postoperative pain
  • joint pain
  • neck and back pain

They may also alleviate pain that results from the following conditions:

  • endometriosis
  • arthritis
  • sports injuries
  • multiple sclerosis
  • fibromyalgia
  • painful diabetic neuropathy
  • spinal cord injury

A TENS unit has controls that allow people to administer an appropriate level of pain relief. People can achieve this by altering the following aspects of the electrical current:

Intensity: A dial allows the user to adjust the intensity of the electrical stimulation.

Frequency: The frequency refers to the number of electrical pulses per second. High-frequency (HF) pulses range from 80 to 120 cycles per second and may help manage acute pain. Low-frequency (LF) pulses range from 1 to 20 cycles per second and are suitable for the treatment of chronic pain.

Duration: The duration is the number of microseconds that the current enters the skin for during each pulse.

Benefits

TENS is a noninvasive method for relieving pain. People who experience pain relief from TENS may be able to reduce their intake of pain medications, some of which can be addictive or cause adverse side effects.

TENS units are also convenient because they are small, portable, and relatively discrete. People can carry a TENS unit in their pocket or clip it onto a belt to ensure that they have immediate access to pain relief throughout the day.

Possible side effects

It is safe for most people to use a TENS unit, and they will not usually experience any side effects. However, the electrical impulses that a TENS unit produces may cause a buzzing, tingling, or prickling sensation, which some people may find uncomfortable.

Some people may be allergic to the adhesive pads. Anyone who experiences skin redness and irritation can switch to using hypoallergenic ones instead. It is vital never to place the electrodes on either the front of the neck or the eyes. Putting electrodes on the neck can lower blood pressure and cause spasms. On the eyes, the electrodes can increase pressure within the eye and possibly cause an injury.

Article Courtesy: Medical News Today


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