TENS unit is the abbreviation for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation unit. A TENS machine can help you relieve moderate pain in the short term.
In this article, we will be telling you all you need to know about TENS unit, the benefits of TENS unit and we will be answering some frequently asked questions like what does TENS unit do? and how does TENS unit work? Therefore, take a sit and enjoy the ride with us.
What is TENS Unit?
A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation unit (TENS unit) is a battery-operated device that some people make use of so that they can treat pain.
TENS units work by delivering small electrical pulses through electrodes with adhesive pads attached to a person’s skin.
The TENS unit device is similar to an Electronic Muscle Stimulator (EMS) system, although its working nature differs considerably from each other. The Tens unit machine produces electrical muscle stimulation that targets only the sensory nerve endings that control pain caused by spasms and injuries.
These electrical impulses flood the nervous system, reducing its ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and the brain.
The same electrical impulses also stimulate the body to produce natural pain relievers called endorphins. When the electronic current passes through the muscles, the brain releases endorphins into the body to reduce the pain experienced by the patient.
In addition, current blocks signal to pain receptors in the brain about the damaged muscles. This helps endorphins do their healing work better.
The Tens machine was previously only found in medical institutes or physiotherapy centers due to its high price. But now the Tens machine can be purchased for different therapy situations and can also be used at home. However, using a TENS device should be part of a pain management program under the direction of your doctor/health care professional.
How does TENS Unit work?
There are two theories on how transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) works. One theory is that electrical current stimulates nerve cells that block the transmission of pain signals, changing their perception of pain. The other theory is that nerve stimulation increases the level of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain chemicals. The endorphins then block the perception of pain.
What is TENS Unit Therapy?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy (TENS unit therapy) is a therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current to relieve pain. A TENS unit consists of a battery-powered device that provides electrical impulses via electrodes placed on the surface of your skin. The electrodes are placed on or near the nerves where the pain is located or at the trigger points.
TENS unit therapy reduces hyperalgesia, which is a high sensitivity to pain. The pain can be found anywhere in the body.
What is Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation Therapy Used to Treat?
Some people ask What does TENS unit do? Here is the answer.
TENS therapy has been used or is being studied to relieve chronic (long-term) and acute (short-term) pain. Some of the most common conditions for which TENS has been used include:
- Osteoarthritis (joint disease).
- Tendinitis (inflammation or irritation of a tendon).
- Lower back pain.
- Peripheral artery disease (“hardening of the arteries” which circulates blood to the body).
- Fibromyalgia (pain and aches in the muscles, tendons, and joints throughout the body, especially along the spine).
- Labour Pian.
- Bursitis (inflammation of fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints).
- Chronic pelvic pain.
- Diabetic neuropathy (damage to the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body).
For what types of conditions and areas of the body should TENS therapy not be used?
Do not use TENS therapy in these specific areas of the body if you have any of the following conditions:
- An implantable device (cardioverter/defibrillator, neurostimulators, bone growth stimulator, permanent blood pressure monitors). Do not use TENS therapy on or near areas where an electronic device is implanted. TENS can cause these devices to malfunction.
- Deep vein thrombosis or thrombophlebitis. Do not use TENS therapy as it can increase blood circulation, which may increase the risk of dislodging a blood clot.
- If you have a Heart disease. Do not use TENS therapy close to the chest if you have heart disease, heart failure, or arrhythmias.
- If you are pregnant. Many people are asking the question: is tens unit safe during pregnancy? You must be very cautious if you are pregnant. Do not apply TENS therapy to the abdomen; pelvic area; lower back or acupuncture points on the knee, hand, or ankle. (However, TENS can be used for labor pains.)
- If you have cancer. Do not apply electrodes to areas of the body where cancer is known or suspected. Do not use TENS if you have undiagnosed pain and a history of cancer in the past 5 years.
- A hemorrhagic disorder or recent or actively bleeding tissue. TENS therapy can increase bleeding at the tissue site or increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
- If you have epilepsy. Do not apply electrodes to the head, neck, or shoulders. The pulses can cause convulsions.
In addition, TENS should not be applied:
- To infected tissue, osteomyelitis sores, or if you have tuberculosis. TENS therapy can cause the spread of infections.
- To areas of tissue that have been newly treated with radiation.
- For damaged skin (except for open wounds where the intention is to use electrical stimulation to heal tissue. In these cases, therapy should be guided by an expert therapist).
- Near or over the eyes or mouth, front or side of the neck or over the head.
- Near the reproductive or genital organs.
- To areas of the body that are missing or have a reduced sensation.
- In people who have communication problems or who are mentally disabled and who cannot provide feedback to ensure the safe use of TENS.
If you have any current or past health problems, or concerns or questions, always consult your health care professional before using TENS.
How is TENS therapy administered?
Like we clearly stated at the beginning of this post, a TENS unit is an electrical device that sends low voltage currents to the body. The electrodes are placed on specific nerves in the body to direct currents from the unit to the nerves.
The frequency of currents from a TENS unit can be increased or decreased from approximately 10 Hz to 50 Hz. Most sessions with a TENS unit will be less than fifteen minutes. It can be administered as often as necessary.
Benefits of TENS Unit
TENS is a non-invasive method of pain relief. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is considered to be very effective in controlling pain. It can reduce the feeling of pain and keep it from coming back in the future.
It can be used alone or in addition to over-the-counter recipes or pain relievers. For instance, using a TENS unit when you have back pain can relieve your pain making it easier for you to sleep without the need for a back brace.
The amount of medication may be reduced in some patients using TENS therapy. Do not stop taking or adjusting your dose without first consulting your doctor.
Another advantage of the TENS unit is that it is small and portable and can, therefore, be used at home or on the go whenever pain relief is needed.
Let us discuss the benefits of TENS unit in detail below.
1. Natural Drug-free Pain Relief
One of the main benefits of TENS therapy is that it is a natural and effective form of pain relief with few or no known side effects.
A systematic review of research in 2014 found out that TENS therapy was could treat acute and chronic pain.
TENS is often chosen as a treatment by those looking for a drug-free option to avoid the known negative side effects of taking pain medication.
For example, a longitudinal research project published in 2015 examined how the side effects of pain relievers can influence a patient’s daily activities.
The study demonstrated an alarming impact on a patient’s ability to perform simple tasks.
Doctors are advised to balance the impact of the drug’s side effects with pain relief before prescribing.
2: It Produces Endorphins
Another one of the benefits of TENS unit is that it produces endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural pain relievers. These are basically hormones that exist in the brain, which are released when the body experiences some form of stress.
Endorphins act as transmitters creating a feeling of ecstasy and well-being which in turn helps reduce pain signals.
Natural ways to release endorphins in the body include music, sex, chocolate, and group exercise.
The NHS also recognizes that a TENS unit helps produce endorphins. It is believed that electrical impulses stimulate the production of endorphins.
Research shows the importance of endorphins in pain management, which is one of the reasons why TENS is said to be effective in relieving pain.
3. Decreases Pain Signal sent to the Brain
One of the benefits of TENS unit is that it decreases the signal of pain sent to the brain.
Studies have shown that a TENS unit can help decrease or block pain signals going to the brain, providing users with the pain relief they want.
When you look at the science behind the actual operation of a TENS unit, you can see how the machine stimulates the nerves. This stimulation is thought to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.
4. Control Over the Treatment
One of the benefits of TENS unit is that you have control over using this treatment.
A TENS unit gives you complete control over your treatment, unlike pain relievers where it is not always possible or feasible to simply increase or decrease the dose if it does not work.
Depending on the unit you choose, you will have a range of different settings and intensity modes to attack the pain, it is simply a matter of finding the best TENS unit for your needs.
When users talk about daily chronic pain, they often talk about the frustration they feel in terms of the lack of control over their pain.
User feedback suggests that TENS offers this control, helping with the psychological impacts of daily pain management.
5. TENS unit retrains the Nerves
Retraining of the body nerves is one of the benefits of TENS units.
In addition to reducing pain signals sent to the brain, it is also believed that over time, a TENS device can retrain nerves, even for those with nerve damage.
Chiropractors believe that treatment, if done for a long time, can change the behavior of the nerve and prevent it from sending pain signals to the brain.
6. Effective for Several Conditions
Through research, a TENS unit has proven to be effective for a wide range of different conditions. In particular, back and knee pain, as well as various forms of arthritis.
There are also a number of lesser-known uses of a TENS machine, including those with urinary incontinence, as well as mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Therefore, one of the many benefits of TENS unit is that it can be used in the treatment od several conditions.
7. Little or No Side Effects
One of the many benefits of TENS unit is that it has little or no effect. This is one of the reasons why the NHS suggests TENS units for pain control. Because they turn out to have little or no side effects, they have been recommended by a lot of professionals in the treatment of pain.
Overuse side effects have been reported, however, you should always speak to a healthcare practitioner prior to starting treatment so that they can advise you on the proper use.
PROFESSIONAL ADVICE – Don’t forget to check for latex-free pads if you have a latex allergy!
8. Reduces Inflammation
One of the important benefits of TENS unit is that it can reduce inflammation. Although research is still limited, studies have shown that TENS is effective in reducing inflammation.
Researchers can’t confirm exactly how TENS manages to accomplish this, however, a study on pro-inflammatory cytokines found it effective.
9. Suitable for Acute and Chronic Pain
TENS is an effective treatment for chronic and acute pain.
Health professionals generally recommend TENS as a treatment for chronic pain, but there is still evidence that TENS can be an effective treatment for acute pain.
10. Effective Complementary Therapy
The nature of a TENS unit (non-invasive, with few or no known side effects) makes it an excellent complementary therapy for more intensive treatments.
For example, a 2015 study of women with pelvic pain associated with endometriosis found that TENS was effective in treating the symptoms of the disease when used in conjunction with hormone therapy.
11. Mimics Massage
In addition to proving their effectiveness in pain relief, several TENS units are also equipped with massage programs, allowing you to enjoy the effects of a relaxing massage and control your pain.
12. It is Compact
The TENS units are also small, which means they don’t take up much space in your home or purse! Other pain relievers, such as those recommended for back pain, may be slightly larger.
Inversion tables or massage chairs require you to make room in your home, while a TENS unit can simply be stored in a drawer.
A TENS machine is a non-invasive way to control your pain. The electrodes are attached to the body and can be moved to attack the pain, making it a low-risk treatment option.
However, you should always talk to your healthcare professional before you start treatment.
14. It can be used at Home
One of the benefits of TENS unit over other pain-relieving medications is that it can be used at home.
If you suffer from daily pain, a treatment option that you can use in the comfort of your home is certainly desirable, and an obvious advantage.
You can use your TENS device and sit comfortably in your favorite chair or even have it attached while doing your daily activities around the house.
15. It is Discreet
TENS units can be used and worn discreetly, whether you are at home or at work, making it a realistic daily treatment option.
There are even fully wireless units, such as the iReliev TENS and EMS wireless muscle stimulator, which has no cables connecting the controller. This means it can be used without anyone knowing. In addition, it is neat, compact, and very light.
16. It is Portable
In addition to being small, the devices are also portable. Anyone who suffers from daily pain knows that they need treatment not only from the comfort of their home but also outside the home.
With a small, discreet TENS machine, people can easily move around with their TENS unit.
TENS units can also be used outside the home, with certain accessories, including shoes and socks, which means you can receive treatment while on the go.
17. TENS units are accessible
One of the benefits of TENS unit worthy of mention is that they are an affordable treatment option, which is why many people choose it as a complementary therapy.
In fact, when users talk about treatment, they often mention affordability compared to a physiotherapist or expensive equipment, such as an inversion table.
The cost of a TENS unit varies considerably, but it usually costs between $20 and $200 depending on the specifications.
18. TENS units are Easy to Use
One of the benefits of TENS units is that they are easy to use. Even in the stress of work, users have reported a positive experience.
It is important to shop around to find a TENS device that you can be able to operate easily.
19. You can use it for a Long Time
Unlike some pain relievers and invasive treatments, a TENS unit is a good long-term treatment option.
With few or no side effects found in the unit, it can be used as a daily treatment for as long as necessary or sporadically, depending on the nature of your pain.
20. It can be Purchased Over the Counter
A prescription is not required for most TENS machines as they can be purchased over the counter and online at several different outlets.
However, it is recommended that you speak to a healthcare professional as the TENS unit is not suitable for all types of pain or all conditions. For example, people who wear a pacemaker or suffer from epilepsy should avoid treatment.
You can purchase TENS unit on Amazon. I will put out three TENS units here for you to buy.
What are the risks and side effects of TENS Unit therapy?
TENS therapy has few reported side effects. In rare cases, patients have reported burns at the electrode sites.
Some patients may be allergic to the adhesive used to attach the pad to the skin or to the materials on the pad itself (the skin may appear red, irritated or a rash may appear).
Some people may be sensitive or uncomfortable with the prickling and tingling sensation caused by the TENS unit.
The effect of TENS on fetuses is unknown at this time. Women who are pregnant should not use TENS unit to relieve pain. People with heart disease should also exercise caution.
Additionally, people with pacemakers, infusion pumps, defibrillators, or similar devices should not be exposed to electrical currents produced by a TENS device.
Preparation for TENS Therapy?
No preparation is necessary for a TENS unit. The electrodes are placed on the surface of the skin, above the hyperactive nerves. For home appliances, a patient will need to know where these pads are going, but the doctor will place them in a health facility.
Results of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can immediately relieve and pain. Thanks to the release of endorphin and nervous control, TENS sends relief directly to the pain site.
Some people experience permanent relief from pain after a few repetitive sessions with a TENS unit. However, others need TENS therapy for an extended period. The effectiveness varies depending on the condition and intensity of the treatment.
How Long Does the Pain Relief from TENS last?
The duration of pain relief after using a TENS device may vary. Some people report that their pain returns as soon as they turn off the device. Others continue to experience a great level of pain relief for about 24 hours.
A 2012 review suggests that the duration of pain relief will increase after each repeated TENS treatment. However, this repetition can also increase the likelihood that a person will develop a tolerance for treatment.
Research on the use of a TENS unit for pain relief has so far yielded inconsistent results due to a lack of scientific studies and high-quality clinical trials.
Some research suggests that the effectiveness of TENS treatment can vary depending on the condition you are treating and the intensity of the treatment. Knowing how these factors affect TENS can help people use the TENS unit more effectively.
Most people can safely use a TENS device, and few will experience side effects. However, it is best to speak to a doctor before trying TENS, either as an alternative treatment or in combination with other pain management methods.
TENS units are available for purchase at some pharmacies and online.