People with acute or chronic pain attain pain relief with TENS because it is safe and efficient. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy uses low-voltage electrical currents through the skin. With the right frequency stimulation, TENS targets the affected area for effective alleviation of pain symptoms from almost all kinds of conditions. Moreover, it is a natural and drug-free method. Therefore, if you want to minimise intake of oral medicines, TENS is your best option.
Many people deal with pain every day as a result of work stress, an underlying condition, or a sudden injury. Nevertheless, the right strategies are crucial for pain management to be effective. TENS therapy is one of the methods that help reduce pain. It also does not have lasting side effects. In this article, we will talk about how TENS can ease pain, procedures for effective use, and safety guidelines.
How Does Pain Relief with TENS Work?
TENS therapy utilises electrical currents to activate the nervous system’s pain-relieving mechanisms. However, pain relief with TENS may vary between individuals. For example, some may experience instant therapeutic results, while others note lasting relief after using the device. Some may also not have any response at all. Nevertheless, many of those who have tried TENS reported positive results in improving their pain symptoms. You may consult your healthcare provider to see how TENS can help your condition.
It is also essential to understand how TENS works to maximise its efficacy. The therapy helps relieve pain based on two theories: Pain Gating and Natural Opioids Release. The Pain Gate Control Theory suggests that the nerves in the spinal cord act as a gating mechanism for pain signals to pass through to the brain. During TENS treatment, it stimulates the “neural gates” to close, blocking the transmission of pain signals.
Another function is inducing the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins are chemicals that inhibit nerve cells from sending pain messages to the brain. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety and boost mood. Therefore, individuals may attain pain relief with TENS using varying frequency levels. High frequency stimulates the pain gate controllers, while low frequency helps release endorphins. Experts also suggest alternating the currents to find optimal effects.
What Can TENS Treat
TENS can help manage different kinds of pain and conditions:
- Acute pain – short-term pain not lasting more than three months. Examples are fractures, muscle soreness, muscle strains, post-surgery pain.
- Chronic pain – recurring pain or long-term disorders, such as arthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, migraines, spinal problems, diabetic neuropathy
Pain Relief with TENS: How to Use TENS Machines
A TENS machine is a battery-operated device with adhesive electrode pads worn near the pain area. Treatment can be self-administered following a few simple procedures. Hence, individuals can get pain relief with TENS at home or on the go while resting or working. To start the therapy, place the electrode pads around the affected area and turn on the device. Then, choose a desired treatment or adjust the setting. Always start at the lowest intensity and slowly increase.
For the treatment to be effective, experts advise positioning the electrodes correctly. The ideal pad placement is on either side of the pain to direct the currents to the centre and stimulate the right nerves. Ensure that the pads are one-inch apart and do not overlap. In addition, if the gap is too wide, it may not deliver sufficient stimulation. You may also slightly alter the placement to get adequate relief.
The convenience and efficacy of pain relief with TENS also depend on the type of device. The main types are wired and wireless electrodes. Traditional devices, like those found in clinics, have lead cables connected to sticky pads. Hence, it requires additional set-up before use. On the other hand, wireless TENS machines, like the iTENS, have Bluetooth-capable electrodes, connecting seamlessly to a smartphone. It eliminates the inconvenience of tangled wires to enable quick use.
Electrode Pads Maintenance
Effective TENS treatment relies on the quality of the electrode pads. The following guide helps preserve the TENS pads:
- Place the pads on clean and dry skin
- Return the protective cover after use
- Periodically clean the pad with a moist cloth
- Add a few droplets of water when it loses its stickiness
Is Pain Relief with TENS Safe?
Many people aim to achieve pain relief with TENS while lessening their intake of drugs. TENS is a safe method proven not to cause adverse harm or lasting side effects. Because a TENS machine is applied externally, it does not risk the vital organs, which is typical with medicines. It also does not have the potential to overdose. However, keep the treatment duration within one hour and spend a 20-minute break between sessions.
TENS machines are safe for most people with few exemptions. Some people with pre-existing conditions may need to consult their physicians before using a TENS device. It includes people with heart ailments, cancer-related pain, epilepsy, and electrical implanted devices. Likewise, pregnant women should refrain from using TENS on the abdomen. An obstetrician may advise suitable areas for relieving other body aches during pregnancy. Moreover, TENS is safe to use in labour for relieving lower back pain and intense cramping.
Some people may have a few side effects, including redness and skin irritation. This may quickly disappear after removing the device and cleaning the skin with warm water. Moreover, individuals who need regular pain relief with TENS may use the device as frequently as necessary. However, do not use TENS or electrical stimulator devices while sleeping, showering or near water, driving, and operating equipment.
Areas to Avoid
Refrain from putting the TENS electrode pads on the following areas:
- open wounds and infected or irritated skin
- numb skin or areas with decreased sensitivity
- on the spinal column and joints
- temples, mouth, and anywhere in the head
- front and sides of the neck
- chest and back simultaneously
- abdomen while pregnant
Pain relief with TENS is undoubtedly effective for most people. It is a non-invasive and drug-free method without adverse risks. Therefore, many people employ TENS as one of their pain management strategies. For instance, many individuals with chronic conditions use TENS to control the severity and frequency of the pain. Likewise, it also aids in the faster recovery of injuries and post-surgery pain.
There are many kinds of TENS devices available. For a versatile treatment, you may get a unit that is easy to use and has various functions. In particular, the wireless iTENS from iTENS Australia has several pre-set modes for body aches and health conditions. You may access this from the convenience of a smartphone without manually adjusting the setting each time. If needed, you may consult a doctor or therapist for guidance on using a TENS machine for your pain.