Pain can be uncomfortable and disabling. Thus, people with acute or chronic pain seek pain relief methods that can give the fastest effects. One of the treatments is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It is a technique that uses low-voltage electrical currents through a small device. However, do TENS machines work immediately? Some people report immediate relief, while others take longer to feel the benefits. TENS may give therapeutic effects as soon as 30 minutes.
TENS therapy is a natural and non-invasive method of relieving pain. It is a practical alternative to pain medications since it does not have adverse side effects. It also minimises the likelihood of needing surgeries or other intrusive procedures. Additionally, more people use TENS machines because of their convenience and ease of use. In this article, we will explore how TENS works, its effectiveness, and a guide on using it correctly.
How Do TENS Machines Work?
Health professionals often recommend TENS therapy to patients with chronic pain. It is also beneficial for people sustaining an injury. However, it is essential to know how do TENS machines work before getting one. It is a battery-powered device with a handheld remote and adhesive electrode pads. Conventional devices have lead cables connecting to the pads, while others have wireless electrodes. For wireless TENS, the unit pairs with a smartphone via Bluetooth.
A TENS machine works by sending small electrical pulses through the skin to the nerves. The pulses stimulate the nerves and can help provide pain relief. Mainly, it uses varying frequencies or pulse rates to excite the nervous system. In high frequency, it induces the nerves in the spinal cord to block pain signals. On the other hand, low-frequency stimulation prompts the release of endorphins. Consequently, the brain receives fewer pain messages, making the person feel less pain.
It is vital to know how do TENS machines work to maximise their benefits. Each stimulation level may bring different effects to the body. Moreover, gentle pulses also boost circulation, which relaxes the muscles and reduces inflammation. As a result, it shortens the recovery time of damaged tissues and nerves. Individuals may try different settings to find the most optimal relief. You may consult a doctor or therapist to help determine an appropriate setup.
What Can TENS Treat?
TENS helps best relieve the following:
- Nerve pains – dysfunctions in the central nervous system that cause pain. It can be acute or chronic
- Musculoskeletal pains – conditions affecting joints, ligaments, tendons, bones and muscles
- Muscle soreness and spasms – an overload of tension and stress on the muscles, causing them to stiffen
How Long Do TENS Machines Work?
Some may ask how soon do TENS machines work. Like other treatment methods, pain relief may vary with TENS. It may not work for everyone. Some may feel therapeutic effects while the session is ongoing. It may also depend on the stimulation levels. For instance, high-frequency TENS (50-120 Hz) gives faster immediate feedback in the nervous system. Individuals may experience pain alleviation within 30 minutes of the treatment. Pain relief may also last for a few minutes after the treatment.
In other cases, low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) triggers endorphin release. This level often takes a longer time to have an effect. The build-up of the natural painkilling hormones may take approximately 40 minutes or longer. However, the relief may last for several hours after the machine is turned off. This is suitable for chronic conditions with symptoms that extend for hours. A TENS machine may help lessen the incidence of attacks.
Another concern is how do TENS machines work, and how long you can use them. Users may use TENS as often as necessary. People with chronic pain conditions may use the device up to four times a day. A TENS session usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes. In addition, it is advisable to limit use to one hour per treatment. This is because prolonged use of the TENS unit may overstimulate the nerves and muscles.
Factors That May Affect TENS Treatment
The efficacy of TENS therapy may be influenced by the following factors:
- type and severity of the ailment
- location of the injury or health condition
- tolerance of an individual to the pain
- sensitivity to electrical stimulation of a person
- effect of TENS with repeated use
- type of device and its settings
Do TENS Machines Work: How to Operate the Device
Patients in pain clinics often ask how to operate the device after learning how do TENS machines work. Many people employ TENS therapy because of its efficiency in operating the device. As soon as you feel pain, you may apply the electrodes to the target location. Position the pads on either side of the pain, directing the currents to the centre. Upon turning on the machine, you will feel immediate tingling sensations in the area.
Start with the lowest setting and gradually increase as you adapt to the electrical nerve stimulation. Adjust the frequency and intensity until you reach a level that is strong but comfortable. The treatment should not increase the pain or discomfort. If you feel unpleasant, reduce the settings slightly. It should also not cause the muscles to contract. Furthermore, as stated above, limit use to one hour to prevent skin burns.
After the treatment, turn the unit off before removing the electrodes. Moreover, you may use the pre-set modes that come with most devices. These are programs with a fixed pulse rate and pulse duration. Individuals who ask how do TENS machines work may use the pre-set settings. After turning on the device, select a treatment for a specific body part or condition. It will automatically start the therapy without needing manual adjustments.
Risks and Precautions
Some people may have the following side effects:
- skin irritations or redness
- skin burns (due to prolonged electrode placement)
- dizziness if placed near sensitive areas like the head
- do not use near water
- avoid areas like the head, throat and spine
- do not place on open wounds and broken or infected skin
People with chronic or acute pain conditions may be interested in comparing TENS to other treatment methods. The device sends mild electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves to relieve pain. Patients asking do TENS machines work immediately must consider that effects of TENS may vary between individuals. Some may feel therapeutic relief while using the device. Meanwhile, it may take longer for others. A person may experience pain alleviation as soon as 30 minutes and lasting for several hours.
Furthermore, the efficacy of TENS depends on several factors. These include the type of pain condition, body location, and severity of pain. It may also differ with the type of TENS device and the stimulation settings. Therefore, it is vital to get a suitable device to help treat pain optimally. For convenient pain management, the iTENS at iTENS Australia offers easy operation through wireless electrodes and smartphone app features.