Not everyone would think of using electricity first to treat pain symptoms. However, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) can do just that. It is a therapy method using mild electrical currents to reduce pain and other discomforts. Through medical TENS machines, individuals can avail of safe, natural pain relief. In addition, TENS has been used by patients with chronic disorders because it is non-invasive, toxic-free, and ready to use anytime.
Many individuals, regardless of their age or status, experience the impact of pain in their lives. It is a leading reason why people miss work or social events and seek medical care. Thus, the right strategies are crucial in effective pain management. TENS therapy offers an alternative solution to alleviating pain without the use of medications and their associated risks. In this article, we will talk about the background of TENS machines, their benefits, and how to use the device.
Background of Medical TENS for Pain Management
Electrotherapy for pain control dates back to the Ancient Egyptians and later to the Greeks and Romans. They discover that electrogenic fishes like eels can lessen headaches, arthritic pain, and other conditions. From the 16th to 18th centuries, various electrical devices were developed that applied electric currents directly to the body. However, it was in the 1970s that the first wearable medical TENS machines were used. Further tests show electrical stimulation is effective in relieving chronic pain.
A modern TENS machine is a small, battery-powered device that delivers tiny electrical impulses to the nerves through the skin. It utilises electrode pads placed near the painful area. Mainly, high-frequency closes the nerve pathways in the spinal cord and block pain signals from reaching the brain. Another method is to set at a low frequency to stimulate the release of endorphins. This also helps increase blood circulation to accelerate the healing of damaged tissues and nerves.
Today, you can avail of TENS not just in clinics or therapy facilities but also through portable devices. Medical TENS units are available over the counter or online without a prescription. Moreover, it comes in two kinds: traditional and wireless devices. They work the same, but their main difference is the connection of their electrodes. Traditional machines have lead cables attaching the TENS pads, while wireless ones are Bluetooth-enabled instead of cords.
What Can TENS Treat
TENS therapy can help alleviate the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Degenerative structural conditions like multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, and herniated disc
- Sports injuries
- Period pain or abdominal cramping
- Labour pain
- Post-operative pain
- Chronic back pains
- Joint pains in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles
The Benefits and Advantages of Medical TENS Machines
Using TENS as medical device provides multiple benefits to other pain management methods. Firstly, the electrical pulses are painless. They help relieve pain symptoms by activating the body’s natural painkillers. Hence, it does not involve chemicals that may harm the body or develop adverse side effects. Secondly, it is a controllable method of pain relief. The device has adjustable settings to suit different pain types and severity. You may alter the frequency and intensity to attain optimal results.
In addition to being programmable, many devices offer pre-set treatments. They have built-in settings for safe and faster use. Thirdly, TENS machines are highly portable and easy to use. You may use the device without supervision. Nevertheless, ensure first that TENS is the right treatment for you. Likewise, they are convenient to carry around. A wireless unit, like the iTENS, is more compact and discreet. Thus, many people use TENS whenever needed without interfering with work or other activities.
Lastly, a medical TENS machine is non-intrusive. The electrode pads are externally applied without penetrating the skin. Also, it does not leave permanent marks. Therefore, some people deem it more comfortable than other pain treatments. Overall, TENS therapy is a safe and non-toxic method. It is more cost-effective than going to regular physical therapy sessions.
Are There Downsides to TENS?
Before starting TENS treatment, it is important to know the following:
- TENS may not work for everyone. Some people may not respond to electrical stimulation.
- It can be uncomfortable, especially for first-time users.
- Finding the right optimal settings may take time.
- It is not advisable for people with heart problems, epilepsy, and electrical implants.
How to Operate Medical TENS Devices
Many individuals prefer to use TENS because of its ease of operation. You may use a medical TENS machine for home use with simple instructions. To start treatment, place the electrodes on the pain site. The pads must be one-inch apart, surrounding the most painful part. Then, turn the device on and start at the lowest intensity. Gradually increase the settings until you feel a strong but comfortable tingling sensation.
You may use the device for 20-30 minutes, depending on the pain condition. Some may use it longer, up to one hour at a time. Furthermore, it is safe to use several times a day as needed. Nevertheless, always take a 20-minute break between sessions to avoid overstimulating the nerves and muscles. After use, turn the device off and remove the TENS pads. Place the protective cover back on the electrodes and store it properly.
When using the TENS pads, ensure that they adhere firmly to the skin without gaps. It is vital to clean the electrodes regularly to maintain their stickiness. In this way, you can prolong the life of the pads for several applications before needing replacement. Moreover, when getting a medical TENS machine, check if the device has FDA clearance. This ensures the device is safe for individual or unsupervised use. If unsure, consult a health professional before using TENS.
Safety Tips of TENS
For risk-free pain treatment, avoid the following practices:
- Putting the electrodes on irritated skin and sensitive areas, like the head, front and sides of the neck, chest, and spine.
- Turning the intensity setting too high that it causes discomfort. TENS should not cause vigorous muscle contractions.
- Using TENS while bathing, sleeping, or driving.
TENS therapy is a safe and drug-free method of relieving pain. A medical TENS machine enables individuals to manage their conditions without the risks of adverse side effects. Moreover, they provide more benefits and advantages, such as being non-invasive, portable, and easy to use. It does not limit movement and can be used anytime. It also allows you to attain optimal relief by adjusting the pain rate and pulse duration based on your comfort level.
You may get a TENS device according to your preference or treatment needs. There are two kinds of units, and that is wired and wireless. A wireless TENS, like the iTENS from iTENS Australia, provides more efficient pain management using Bluetooth technology and smartphone app features. Finally, follow the TENS usage guideline or your physician’s advice in using TENS. In conclusion, TENS machines are a worthy investment, especially for managing acute and chronic pain.