Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, more commonly referred to as TENS, uses mild electrical impulses to block off pain signals from reaching the brain and dull sensitivity to pain. Many scientists believe that the machine also aids in the production of natural endorphins and other pain killing chemicals within the body which provides pain relief. Patient.info explains: “A TENS machine is a small portable, battery-operated device which is worn on the body. The box is attached by wires to sticky pads stuck to the skin. Small electrical pulses are transmitted to the body, like little electric shocks. This can help to ease pain in some people with certain types of pain.”
TENS units are used for a number of different types of pain including that caused from disorders or diseases, as well as injuries. A new study has made it clear that TENS may also work on those suffering from chronic back pain. While the machines have been available for use for many decades, the more modern versions offer support through various modes and functions. Web MD reports: “For the study, Simon’s team studied the effectiveness of TENS on 60 adults with lower back pain ranging in age from 18 to 79. Participants received four 20-minute sessions of TENS therapy over two to three weeks. The unique aspect of this study, according to Simon, is that the dose of TENS used was higher than normal. The higher doses were most effective, while still being well tolerated and not painful, he said.”
Other interesting results from this study concluded that younger adults were able to relieve the pain with less frequency, while older adults required a higher impulse level to receive relief. This was an interesting outcome, providing hope for many adults who suffer from chronic back pain across the United States.
Reasons To Use TENS
Other treatments offered for pain relief can be more invasive, in the form of surgical procedures or physical therapy. Medication can also be used to treat this type of pain, but often these drugs have addictive characteristics. The TENS treatment poses no risk of addiction, and has shown little to no negative side effects for those who utilize it. The machines can vary in size and frequency providing relief in many forms for those who wish to use the treatment at home or while travelling. Djoglobal.com writes: “Often, pain medication can be reduced, or even eliminated, when electrotherapy is incorporated into your treatment plan. It may improve pain or rehabilitate muscle tissue without the side effects typically associated with prescription drugs.”
Battery operated and completely drug free, TENS can be obtained with a doctor’s prescription, or sometimes without one. They are obtainable through online retailers, or through many medical facilities. Your doctor will likely suggest that you try one by renting through a physical therapist before buying one for yourself. He or she will also be able to discuss the various types of TENS units and which would be most suitable for your chronic pain condition.
Uses of TENS For Other Pain
Recent testing for TENS has also been completed in a search for pain relief in patients with hyperalgesia. This hyper sensitivity to pain makes it difficult for sufferers to lead normal lives, enjoy everyday activities and find relief through traditional methods of pain relief. Research is ongoing in this particular area to determine if the various levels of electrical impulses could make a difference. Hyperalgesia can be found in some chronic back pain cases. The United States National Library of Medicine explains: “TENS units have been commercialized with many different characteristics. However, little is known about whether different waveforms could influence TENS-mediated analgesia in a different manner compared with the effects of high-frequency TENS with different waveforms (such as an asymmetrical or symmetrical biphasic square wave) on inflammatory hyperalgesia.”
The development of new devices which can use alternating wavelengths and levels of electricity in future years may answer some of these questions and offer relief for those who have tried standard TENS machines without success.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation has been on the market for roughly 50 years, but despite not being a brand new technology there is still plenty to be learned from this treatment. What is known for certain is that the machines are safe when used properly, and that they do offer successful results of pain relief to many who use them. The type and location of the pain will make a difference as to how effective the treatment is.
TENS works best on localized pain, which is confined to a particular area. Large regions where pain occurs, or pain that moves from place to place is generally more difficult to treat with these machines. Instead, doctors may suggest an alternative form of treatment, or a larger TENS unit with more electrodes to cover the area in question.