The Basics of TENS Units For Pain Management (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)

T.E.N.S. is an acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. They are small battery powered devices designed to relieve post-operative, acute, and chronic pain. They are about the size of an iPod. It is a safe non-invasive drug free method of pain management that can help decrease the need for pain medication and also supplement treatment being received for pain control. It is used for pain caused by peripheral nerves and not centrally derived pain. TENS Units are prescription only devices. Sometimes they have attachments that go on your pants or pockets so that they are easy to bring with you.

TENS units are often used along with additional non-operative treatments such as Physical Therapy, Physiotherapy, Pain Management, Chiropractic, Spinal Decompression, or Manipulation Under Anesthesia.

How Do They Work?

A TENS unit is a device that transmits small square electrical pulses to the electrodes, which transmit this electrical pulse to the underlying nerves. The fundamental components of a TENS unit are the electrodes, a highly advanced computer chip, and an electrical battery source. The small amount of electricity is transmitted through the computer component then to the electrodes, which transmits the electrical waveform through the skin to the underlying nerves.

The user can personalize the pulse frequency, which is the strength of the electrical current given to the electrode (this should be accomplished in conjunction with the prescribing provider).Typically the prescribing provider will show the patient how to use the device and show any advisable setting options.

What conditions are helped with Transcutaneous Units?

Neck Pain, Back Pain, Arthritis, Sciatica, headaches, Muscular Strains, TMJ Disorder, Radiculopathy, pain from 脈衝機 herniated discs, mid back pain, upper back pain, tendonitis, Sports Injuries, bursitis,

TENS units will not cure a disease or pain problem. They are of no curative value. It is a symptomatic treatment which suppresses pain sensation.

Application of a TENS Unit

Electrodes are placed on or near the area of pain. Soothing pulses are sent via the electrodes through the skin and along the nerve fibers. The current travels through the electrodes and into the skin stimulating specific nerve pathways to produce a tingling or massaging sensation that reduces the perception of pain. The pulses suppress pain signals to the brain. TENS Machines also encourage the body to produce higher levels of its own pain killing chemicals called Endorphins.

How long does it take for a TENS Machine to start working to relieve my pain?

It takes approximately 30 minutes or less to feel the effects. Some people use their TENS unit throughout the day off and on. It’s not typically recommended to be used continuously. Rather best to use for a period of time (1-2 hours) then take off for a while.

What does a TENS Machine feel like when it’s turned on?

The device produces a tingling sensation but should not be painful.

Who Should Not Use a TENS Unit?

  • Persons using a CARDIAC PACEMAKER
  • Has any form of malignancy,
  • Various conditions where circulation is impaired.
  • Persons with a heart condition.
  • By someone with epilepsy
  • Around the head
  • With the electrodes placed on the neck near carotid
  • It may not be used transcerebrally across the head,
  • Not over the carotid sinus(where the jaw meets the neck), over metal implants or in conjunction with sleep apnea or heart monitors.

You should be aware that TENS units provide symptomatic therapy only and are not considered curative.

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