Electricity can change things; it has made things simpler for us by traveling, obtaining information, processing our food, lighting our nights, heating and cooling our houses, and the list goes on. Electricity has also literally saved lives with different medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps. Would it surprise you that electricity also plays a significant role in pain management? TENS, also known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a method that exhibits promise when used as a stand-alone painkiller or when combined with other pain-relieving techniques to treat joint, muscle, soft tissue, or post-surgical discomfort. What is a TENS machine, and how does it function?
What is TENS?
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, also known as TENS, is a form of pain management that use skin surface electrodes to transmit low voltage electric impulses that stimulate your body’s nerves and lessen your perception of pain. TENS is most frequently administered by compact, battery-operated hand-held devices referred to as “TENS units.” Back pain, surgical discomfort, period pain, and sports injuries are among the symptoms that are treated with TENS machines. For individuals who are experiencing any pain, TENS machines can assist improve their quality of life.
A TENS unit is a tiny device about an iPad mini size that is directly applied to your skin. Electrical pulses in the painful location activate nearby nerve fibers, reducing pain signals to the brain. The affected area of your body receives brief electrical impulses when the machine is turned on, which you experience as a tingling sensation. The body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, may be stimulated.
You will feel a vibrating or tingling sensation when using a TENS unit, which can assist in blocking or decreasing pain signals. Typically, two electrode pads are placed on either side of the painful location. This is done to ensure that the TENS feeling covers the painful area. To treat a broader region of pain, utilize four electrode pads. A rotating dial or knob will let you adjust the volume or strength of the current that flows through the electrodes. If the person has trouble moving their hands around, some machines include more extensive controls that are simpler to operate. To make the TENS experience as comfortable as possible, you will also be able to change the pattern and pace of the current. Numerous TENS devices are digital and include useful pre-sets to guide you in selecting the settings that will work best for your pain.
How Does TENS Work?
The TENS unit uses different mechanisms to function. According to certain studies, the pain-gate, a unique system that aids in preventing pain signals from traveling up the spinal cord, is how the TENS machine works. According to additional data, the TENS unit may also trigger a few of the body’s opioid pain-killing systems. Another process could be the distraction mechanism; it may only serve to divert attention from the discomfort.
Care should be taken when using a TENS unit, and a doctor familiar with your medical history should give the go-ahead. The electrodes or adhesive pads are placed on either side of the area where you or a caregiver present joint or muscle discomfort. Different types come with pads in both large and small sizes. The device begins to deliver electric impulses to the tissue through the electrodes when it is turned on. Users set the machine to a low initial amount of stimulation and gradually increase it until tingling begins to outweigh tension.
The configuration resembles an automated defibrillator with the capacity to restart a heart quite a bit, with its sticky pads and wires. However, compared to a defibrillator, the electrodes are typically much smaller and conduct significantly less electricity. TENS units produce electricity intended to gently stimulate the nerve pathways in painful areas without delivering a severe shock.
Consider trigger point therapy with deep needles. If you frequently experience muscle spasms, it has been suggested that TENS can help. For some women, it is even used to lessen labor discomfort. Even better, some people believe that the advantages go beyond just being useful right away. According to research, TENS therapy may help users’ bodies create pain-relieving endorphins.
Uses of TENS
A TENS unit’s uses are not limited to treating back and neck pain. TENS units provide more than simply pain treatment, which is precisely why they are growing in popularity these days. Here are ten uses for the best TENS unit if you consider buying one for your home.
1. Cardiovascular health improvement. These days, heart disease and high blood pressure are prevalent. The real TENS treatments were able to lower blood pressure and improve resting heart rates in a trial including 13 healthy males and a series of natural and fake TENS treatments. But remember that not all people with cardiac conditions can benefit from TENS therapy. Patients with pacemakers and severe heart conditions should not take them.
2. Enhance athletic performance. Although research on the efficacy of TENS therapy in improving sports performance is inconclusive, there is evidence that stretching while using a TENS unit improves and increases range of motion and decreases muscle pain.
3. Minimizing Labor Pain. The pain related to labor can also be reduced with a TENS device. Instead of eliminating all contraction-related sensations, it works by preventing your brain from receiving pain signals. There are two distinct outcomes of this method. You become less aware of the pain, or endorphin production is prompted, which improves your ability to deal with the discomfort.
4. Enhancing lung capacity. TENS can alleviate the overall symptoms of COPD patients and increase lung capacity, or how much air the lungs can retain.
5. Reducing the effects of stroke’s harm. The brain is frequently severely damaged after a stroke, making a full recovery challenging for patients. TENS treatment could be used to address conditions due to stroke. TENS therapy can aid stroke victims in regaining their ability to move their muscles by stimulating muscles and nerves.
6. Battling anxiety and sadness. Psychotherapy and medicine may not always be effective in treating depression and anxiety, which can be crushing. Nausea, tiredness, insomnia, constipation, and blurred vision that anti-depressant users may experience can be avoided with TENS treatment, making it simple for patients to regain their balance. Endorphins are produced and released by TENS machines, which lessens depressive symptoms.
7. Providing comfort for painful muscles. To promote circulation, the TENS unit’s electrical stimulation generates and transmits impulses to the various muscle groups in your body. Your muscles, as a result, pump out waste, aiding in muscle rehabilitation.
8. Minimizing inflammation. Increased pain and suffering brought on by inflammation can make it more difficult for anyone to carry out daily activities. Proper TENS stimulation can significantly lessen the inflammation brought on by sciatica, pinched nerves, and disc degeneration. Using the equipment frequently should aid in speedier recovery and prevent muscle loss. As a result of the relaxation it offers, a person’s dread of experiencing pain can be removed, enabling them to keep their usual strength.
9. Used for Relaxation. TENS units are typically used as massagers by consumers who purchase them. The devices have a variety of pulse patterns that users can configure based on their requirements and preferences. They can modify the machine’s intensity level to relax by turning it up or down. The fact that they are simple to use at home is one excellent reason people prefer them for massages. No intrusive process or laborious preparation is required to enjoy it.
10. Pain management. The most frequent justification for purchasing TENS equipment is probably this. These tools make pain management safer and more economical. They don’t carry the risk of dependence or developing an immune to painkiller resistance.
Helpful Instructions on How to Use TENS Machine
Just like any other numerous machine types and medications, it is advised that you always abide by the guidelines provided with your machine by the manufacturer. Here are some points to consider:
- Ensure the equipment is turned off before applying the electrode pads to the skin.
- To test the device, cautiously switch it on while holding the pads between your fingers. There should be a tingling throughout your body.
- Place the pads on a clean, dry surface with no wounds, grazes, or skin irritation.
- Put the pads on either side of the painful area. Use flexible rubber or self-adhesive pads that should be fully covered with conductive gel on the surface where they will adhere to the skin. The pads shouldn’t be placed too close (within 2 to 3 cm).
- If you want to move around, secure the pads to your skin with tape.
- Setting the pulse rate to the appropriate value of about 100 Hz is about right.
- Turn the machine on gradually and increase the intensity until you experience tingling. The experience must be intense yet not unpleasant. The sensation slowly fades away after a few minutes. When this occurs, turn the machine slightly higher and continue using it for the remainder of the time. Avoid turning it up too loud because doing so could lead to overstimulation, exacerbating the pain. The muscles shouldn’t contract.
- Please turn off the device and remove the electrodes from it after the session is finished.
- After using the machine all day, gently pull the pads from the skin and wash them with regular soap and water. To remove the places, avoid pulling directly on the wires. Use a new area of skin the next time you use the machine if the pads or tape have caused any redness or irritation.
- Avoid using TENS when sleeping or in the bathtub.
What are the Side Effects and Risks of Using TENS?
Most users of TENS units may do so without risk, and they typically don’t encounter any adverse side effects. But some people could find the vibrating, tingling, or prickling feeling brought on by the electrical impulses a TENS device emits to be uncomfortable. The adhesive pads may cause allergies in some people.
The electrodes must never be positioned near the eyes or the front of the neck. Placing electrodes on the neck can result in spasms and a drop in blood pressure. When used on the eyes, electrodes may elevate intraocular pressure and harm the eye.
TENS machines are typically employed primarily to assist with pain management related to issues with muscles, joints, and nerves or the so-called musculoskeletal pain. They might be more effective for these issues than the chest, head, or abdominal discomfort. Using a TENS unit has almost no adverse effects, unlike many medications. However, the some individuals are discouraged from using the TENS machine; when the source of the discomfort is unknown or not well identified. Pregnant women unless specifically medically advised – or in labor. Those who have pacemakers, epilepsy, or specific forms of cardiovascular disease.
There is enough research to suggest that many people find TENS helpful as a stand-alone treatment or as a component of a bigger plan, even though studies have not conclusively shown it works for everyone all the time. If you haven’t tried it, you should consider your medical history to see if it is safe. Try TENS the next time you feel drained of energy and need something more relaxing than your worn-out go-to pain-relieving routine.