What is a TENS Machine?
The TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine is an electrical device designed to help treat pain, such as migraines, back and neck aches or muscular and joint pain and used as a drug-free pain-relief option during labour.
A small handheld TENS machine gives out tiny pulses of electrical energy that are felt as a buzzing sensation via pads attached to the skin, joined to the machine by wires. Behind this idea is that these pulses block pain signals between the area of pain and the brain, and the device may help produce endorphins – the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals. These days there are wireless devices called iTENS, which operate the same as the wired ones, but the technology enables the user to move around and use the device at their command.
How Do You Use it?
A TENS machine is used by attaching sticky rubber pads (the electrodes) to the skin on either side of the most intense pain area. These are connected to the device by wires in this type of machine. The electrical impulses level can then be controlled by the device, which usually has a digital display and settings. The iTENS does the same but without the wires.
Uses of TENS Machines:
• During labour: Approximately one in five women use a TENS machine during labour, and many find it useful as a drug-free option to manage pain during the early stages. As with any pain, there is evidence that this task of managing pain is not definitive. However, some women find it very helpful to use it in this situation and continue to use this each time they are in labour.
• For back or neck pain: TENS devices can be used for back and neck pain by placing electrodes on the skin closer to the area of most significant pain.
• For arthritis pain: They are ideal for this kind of joint pain as it is a non-invasive and drug-free pain reliever. Again, evidence is inconclusive, with some finding short-lived relief, some longer-lasting and others none at all. However, it appears that for some, this can form part of their pain relief management for arthritis.
• For migraines: Some patients find the TENS helpful device and should use it as soon as the first signs of migraine appear. Electrodes can be placed on the head as well as the neck to relieve pain.