What is the use of TENS Therapy?

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Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, often known as “TENS” is a type of physical therapy that uses electrical stimulation to anesthetized areas of the body for short-term pain relief. TENS therapy utilizes small transmissions of electricity to pass electrical impulses through the body. These impulses will arouse the nerves to the point that they can get rid of pain reactions, decreasing pain for sometime. Sharp pain is most efficiently and successfully be treated with TENS therapy as these are usually "spot treatments," rather than continued treatments. Occasionally, some physicians will recommend patients to endure TENS therapy as a form of massage. Generally, a TENS component or unit is a moveable, pocket-sized, battery-powered device. The TENS unit makes use of a gentle, secure electrical signals to aid in managing the pain or ache.


What is the history of TENS therapy?

Around 63 A.D, in Greece, electrical stimulation was used for relieving pain. In 1974, the foremost contemporary TENS was introduced in the United States of America. Originally, it was used for testing the forbearance of long-term pain patients to electrical stimulation. Currently, many people assume TENS as Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS). Even though, EMS and TENS devices are alike, with both using long electric lead wires and electrodes, they are different. TENS is for stopping the pain, whereas EMS is for muscle triggering.


When is TENS therapy used to help patients?

Usually, a TENS unit treats different kinds of aches. TENS can assist in minimizing sharp short-term pain, such as subsequent to surgical procedure or an accident. Chronic pain, like arthritis, back or muscle pain, or cancer pain may also be minimized with the help of TENS. Few people have difficulties in taking pain medications. For them, TENS is a secure, drug-free way to assist in controlling pain.


What is the theory behind TENS therapy?

The theory behind TENS therapy is that a minute current brings relief from pain. It supersedes the pain pathway and ceases it. Fundamentally, it jumbles the signal that the brain is transferring out to cease the pain from happening. The electricity is also believed to force the body to produce a feel-good stuff that ceases or minimize the pain in that particular area of the body. Basically, TENS can alleviate pain by blocking the pain message transferred by the nervous system of the body. This is done by positioning electrodes over the painful area and applying an electrical current of low-volt.


How does TENS therapy work?

TENS minimizes pain by transferring minute electrical impulses through electrodes which will be a sticky patch positioned on the skin. The electrical signals pass through the TENS unit through wires to the electrodes. Then the following reactions happen:

  •  The signal passes to the nerves beneath the skin. These nerves take information to the brain about what they feel, like touch, heat, pressure, and pain. The signals from TENS can substitute the message of pain on these nerves with a tingling sensation. This action alters the feeling of the pain.
  •  The TENS signals might also augment the amount of endorphins, a pain-relieving chemical made naturally by the body.


Why are the locations of the electrodes important?

Positioning the electrodes in the right place is crucial. If the electrodes are put in the wrong place the pain may not be minimized. If the electrodes are placed wrongly, the pain could even get worse. The electrodes should never be put near the eyes. The electrodes should not be positioned over the nerves from the neck to the throat or brain. The electrodes are placed in different places on the skin. The position and location of the electrode in the skin relies on the kind and place of the pain.

  •  The electrodes may be located to cover up or enclose the painful area in the body. TENS performs excellent with muscle pain, spasm, or aching joints as in arthritis.
  •  Otherwise the electrodes may be positioned to capture the pain as with the pain of a surgery incision.
  •  The electrodes may be placed between an injured nerve and the brain when a nerve has been hurt.

Some physicians and doctors have found that positioning the electrodes along acupuncture points is also helpful. Moreover, it is good to change the location of the electrodes in each treatment to stay away from skin irritation.


What is the frequency levels used in TENS?

Generally, in most patients, the higher frequencies used in the treatment procedure was observed to have best outcomes. Typically, frequencies between 90 and 130 are recommended. However, minimizing pain by means of TENS differs from individual to individual and on various parts of the body. Sometimes, bursts of electricity are blasted through the leads in levels of seven to nine pulses at a time at frequencies of about 150. This is done only for patients who need more intensified treatment. This burst of electricity may be known as “Electronic acupuncture”.


What are the other uses of TENS?

In one research, patients at the National Institutes of Health who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were treated with TENS for 45 minutes to monitor if the treatment assisted in relieving the symptoms. This was done by placing leads on the patients' backs just behind their lungs and left in place, liberating a stream of electricity for 45 minutes of an hour. The patients who received the TENS treatment were significantly able to breathe easier following the procedure than those who received a placebo with no electricity transmitted through the wires.


What are the Side-effects of TENS?

Generally, TENS is considered to be safe, with no side-effects. The low-volt electrical current transferred through the electrodes only make a way into the skin to the level of the nerve fibers, more often only one to two inches, which usually causes no harm to most people. Nevertheless, those with cardiac conditions and/or pacemakers, and pregnant women must take advice from their physician, prior to using TENS.  

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