Dimishing Pain with Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Pain seems to have become a part of accepted lifestyles. Many people go through their daily grind- feeling the pain in necks, their lower back and in achy joints and simply getting through their tasks. Some manage the discomfort with medication. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a method that uses electrical nerve impulses to reduce feelings of pain. It is possible to feel better other than reliance on medication.

What is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)?

Clients in pain visit a chiropractor or a physical therapist. Electrodes are placed near or on the area of discomfort. Electrical impulses are conducted through the electrodes to corresponding nerves. The body’s pain signal is interrupted with this new electrical stimulation.

The device consists of electrodes and an adjustable power unit. The average power unit is about the size of a cell phone. The intensity can be adjusted from low to high frequencies. Electrodes are self-adhesive and typically gel is placed between the electrode and the skin to increase efficacy of the transmission of the impulses from the TENS device to the area of application. Electrode pads are also of different sizes. When used at home as part of their self-care, patients find it beneficial to place the electrode on a trigger point or acupuncture point that sets up a referral pattern for the pain signal. A physician can recommend areas that may be used for placement of the electrodes. Patient results vary and different levels of intensity may be necessary for a set of conditions, threshold of pain and perception of pain versus the tingling or massage-like feelings from the TENS.

Theory of TENS

Studies show varying levels of efficacy for patients. Many doctors recommend it as a part of their pain management program. TENS works for a number of clients but researchers still debate on exactly how the application of TENS results in pain relief. Theories suggest that the electrical stimulation of the nerves blocks the feeling of pain and that TENS releases endorphins, a natural pain-killing hormone present in the body.

Who Benefits from TENS?

People with short-term or chronic pain can benefit from TENS. Those who wish to reduce dependency on medications or do not benefit from prescribed medications can also be candidates for this method of pain relief. As part of a self-care program, patients like having the ability to adjust the intensity of the current and therefore exerting a level of control.

The top 10 conditions that TENS has been shown to be useful for are as follows:

  • Muscular Pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Pain after Surgical Procedures
  • Bursitis
  • Traumatic Injury
  • Dental Pain
  • Pinched Nerves
  • Degenerative Discs

Contraindications for TENS Application

TENS is not always a suitable method of pain relief. Those who have a pacemaker or who are pregnant should speak with a doctor to find out if this method is appropriate for their specific situation. TENS can cause skin irritation around the area of the electrode application and changing the type of gel or electrode can help with this. There are varying levels of results for individuals with this method of pain relief.

Do Not Apply TENS:

  • Directly on top of wounds or areas of broken skin though it is possible to apply in proximity to the area.
  • On the front of the neck since the stimulation of nerves in the area can affect the rhythms of the heart.
  • Over the eyes or mouth
  • On the temples
  • Over a tumor or malignancy
  • Over a numb area since patients cannot perceive how the intensity level of the TENS device affects them.

The professionals at Advanced Back and Neck Care is located in Chandler, AZ and assist clients on their path to wellness.

Dr. David Voyer

Dr. David Voyer

Advanced Back and Neck Care is dedicated to helping you achieve your wellness objectives -- combining skill and expertise that spans the entire wellness spectrum. You will find the main entrance to our state of the art Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, Medical Massage, and Strength training facility.
Dr. David Voyer


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