What is TENS?
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve
Stimulation. TENS Units have been prescribed for years as an
alternative to traditional analgesic pain relievers. A TENS unit is a
pocket size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical
impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals. This causes a
tingling sensation that reduces pain, even pain that hasn't responded to
other treatments. Because of their size, most patients will hook the TENS
unit onto their belt or place it in their pocket turning it on and
off as its needed.
How does a TENS Unit
This treatment stimulates nerves by sending an
electrical current gently through your skin. Some people say it feels sort of
like a massage on their skin. Two respected scientists discovered a theory,
called the Gate Theory. This theory says that when you feel a sensation other
than pain, like rubbing, massage, or even a mild electrical impulse, your spinal
column will actually "close the gate" and not let pain impulses pass to the
brain. In the case of electrical stimulation, the electrical impulses speed
their way across the skin and on to the central nervous system much faster than
pain. By getting there first, the electrical information "closes the gate" to
pain, blocking its passage to the brain. Once the pain eases, muscles that are
in spasm begin to relax, letting you move and exercise with less discomfort.
Other settings on the unit can be used to help your body release endorphins.
These are natural chemicals formed within your body that behave like a strong
drug in reducing the perception of pain for up to eight hours at a
Will TENS help my
In clinical trials,
TENS has been shown to be an effective and safe method for the treatment
of acute and chronic pain.
Chronic Pain: Neck and Back pain, Headache, Migraine,
Arthritis, Post-herpetic neuralgia, Sciatica, Lumbago
Pain: Childbirth, Post-operative pain, Fractures, Tennis elbow,
conditions for which TENS may help include:
any side-effects?Unlike drugs, TENS does
not cause nausea, drowsiness, limited activity, personality changes or
addiction. TENS may sometimes cause skin irritation or redness. Usually this
disappears quickly or can be prevented by using alternative gels or
ContraindicationsExcept in the case
of certain individuals using pacemakers, there are no known contraindications
for TENS. The use of a TENS with a pacemaker may prevent the pacemaker from
working. If you have a pacemaker, you must get a clearance from your consultant
cardiologist that it is O.K. for you to use a TENS machine.
- 1. TENS devices should be used with caution
where the cause of the pain has not been established.
- 2. TENS stimulation is of no curative value.
That is, TENS does not do anything to the underlying cause of the pain.
- 3. Treatment outcome (with TENS ) will be
influenced by the cause of the pain, the patient's psychological state and use
- 4. TENS should be kept out of the reach of
- 5. Electrical stimulation over the carotid
sinus, i.e. anywhere over the front of the neck, may be hazardous.
- 6. The safety of TENS during pregnancy has not
TENS units should be used under the direction
of a doctor or physical therapist