What Is A TENS Unit ? Benefits | Side Effects | Pain Relief
April 15, 20206 min read
What Is A TENS Unit And Does It Work?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy in which low-voltage electricalimpulses are used to relieve pain. The therapy includes stimulation of nerves to treat pain. A TENS unit is a small device used for this therapy. It as a small device operated by a battery and deliver low-voltage electric currents to relieve pain. The machine works by delivering the current via electrodes having sticky pads. These pads are attached to the person’s skin using the therapy device.
These low-voltage electrical currents then reach the nervous system. The ability of the nervous system to send pain signals to the brain and spinal cord of a person is reduced by this process, thus resulting in pain relief. These currents also derive the body to produce endorphins which are natural pain killers.
It is not yet determined whether this device is a reliable therapy or not as there is no high-quality research done on this aspect. But according to researchers, this method can prove to be a low-risk pain reliever to many people.
Here are some of the aspects of a TENS unit which you need to know.
Uses of the device:
A TENS unit can help you relieve joint pain, neck pain, back pain, period pain, and labor pain too. Pain resulting from different conditions such as sports injuries, arthritis, and spinal cord injury, etc. can also be relieved by using this device. You can adjust the intensity, frequency and duration of the electrical currents being produced by this device manually to execute a certain level of pain relief.
The intensity of the electrical impulses can be adjusted by using a dial available on the device. The frequency of the device means the number of electric impulses produced every second. You can adjust the device for high-frequency ranging from 80 to 120 electrical impulses per second and low frequency ranging from 1 to 20 electrical impulses per second. The number of milliseconds the electrical impulses enter your skin refers to the duration and can be adjusted by the user.
You can use the device to relieve pain after surgery. Studies show that patients using a TENS unit after surgery needed fewer painkillers and it reduces the side effects of these painkillers too. These patients also had low levels of pain than others. If you apply the unit at the base of your head, it can also help you relieve migraines. Patients suffering from chronic pains such as fibromyalgia and neuropathic pains can also use a TENS unit to relieve pain.
There are some insufficient shreds of evidence that this device may help treatment for stroke recovery. The unit also helps to reduce menstrual cramp pains. TENS unit may also help you improve urinary incontinence. A study shows that the TENS unit also helps you improve lung function.
Benefits of a TENS unit:
One of the greatest benefits of a TENS unit is that it’s a natural pain reliever and you don’t need to use any drugs for relieving pain. We can say that this method is a natural way with little or no side effects for pain relief.
The brain releases hormones called endorphins which are our natural body painkillers. They help to reduce pain signals produced by the brain. The electrical signals created by using a TENS unit also stimulated the production of this hormone in our body. This unit also helps to keep the pain signals from reaching the brain to provide you with the pain relief you crave. Studies show that using this device over time actually retrain nerves and can change the behavior of nerves sending pain signals to the brain to stop sending these signals.
Using this device has also found to be helpful in reducing inflammation. It also provides you total control over your treatment for relieving pain unlike other painkillers as you can adjust the dose of treatment you are getting from the said device.
The machine also seems to be a complementary therapy session for other intensive treatments. The TENS unit is normally recommended for treating chronic pain but there is little evidence that proves it to be effective for acute pain also.
The device is portable and proves to be very helpful for patients suffering from daily pain. Those patients can receive the treatment while being outside of their homes making it an easier option. The device is user friendly and there are even wireless units that can be worn discreetly. A TENS costs ranging from $200 to $700 depending upon the specifications and proves to be an affordable way for relieving pain.
Possible side effects of using a TENS unit:
Most of the people using a TENS unit do not experience any kind of side effects making it a safe treatment. However, there can still be some side effects of using this device. Most of the side effects of this device come from leaving on the adhesive pads for too long or if you set the intensity level of the device too high. The electrical signals produced by the device may sometimes cause itching or irritating sensations. You may also experience buzzing sensations sometimes. Some patients find these sensations uncomfortable.
Some patients are allergic to the adhesive pads of this device and may experience skin redness or irritation. These patients are advised to use hypoallergenic pads instead of these normal ones.
Always remember never to place the electrodes of this device in front of the neck or the eyes of the patient. If you place the electrode in front of the neck, it will lower the blood pressure and may also cause spasms. While on the eyes, it can increase blood pressure within the organ and may result in an injury.
Burn marks and muscle twitching may also occur while using this device. If you put the device close to an open wound, it further adds to the irritation. If the electrodes are placed on the face, it may result in damaging facial nerves. So, never place the device above your neck to play safe.
To avoid all of the side effects of this device, make sure that you use the device more carefully and adjust the intensity of this machine according to your needs.
When to avoid TENS treatment:
TENS is safe to be used by most of the people, but there are some conditions in which you should avoid using this device. It is recommended that some of the people with specific health conditions need to consult a health official before using a TENS unit or just avoid using this device.
If you are a pregnant woman, avoid placing the electrodes in the abdominal and pelvic regions to stay safe from the side effects of TENS treatment. The treatment may cause seizures if you place the electrodes of a TENS unit on the head or neck of a patient with epilepsy. Avoid using the device if you are a heart patient, cancer patient, diabetic patient, or you have any electric or metal implant such as pacemaker etcetera.
If you have any of the health conditions discussed above, never use a TENS unit until a doctor recommends you to use it.
Does a TENS treatment work?
It is not yet determined that if we can refer TENS treatment reliable for relieving pain due to lack of high-quality clinical trials and research. But we can still call it a low-risk pain-relieving method for a lot of people. Some factors may impact the effectiveness of this treatment such as the tolerance of a person to this treatment. If a person is using this device daily, he/she may develop tolerance against this treatment. You may not get the same feeling of pain relief you experienced while using this device for the first time if you have been using this machine on the same intensity for several days. To avoid this, keep switching between HF and LF devices and also keep gradually changing the intensity or duration of this treatment daily.
It is recommended by experts that you should use the highest-intensity TENS treatment you can tolerate for more effective treatments. Applying the electrodes on acupuncture points increases the effectiveness of TENS treatment and you experience a reduced level of pain.
The device works best when you use it while doing activities such as walking, jogging, working out, or doing chores, etc. Use the device for at least 30 minutes while being active to receive the best treatments.
How long does pain relief last after using a TENS unit?
The duration of pain relief after receiving the treatment may vary from person to person. Some patients may experience the return of pain immediately after turning off the unit. Some patients continue to feel pain relief for up to 24 hours. It depends on various factors such as, the medical condition of the patient, the type of TENS unit you are using, and the intensity and frequency of the treatment.
Studies show that the duration of pain relief develops after repeated usage of the unit daily but it may also be affected if a person builds up a tolerance against this treatment.
After discussing different aspects of a TENS treatment, we can surely say that more research is needed on this aspect. Although many people who have used this device experience pain relief, we will recommend you to consult a health official before giving it a try.