Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS pain management, is a therapy that uses an electronic device to send electrical currents to the body. This electrical stimulation works in different mechanisms to alleviate discomfort. Foremost, TENS therapy can block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Secondly, the electrical pulses can stimulate the release of endorphins. Thirdly, it can improve blood flow. Additionally, the electrical pulses can stream in low and high frequencies.
Different types of pain affect millions of people worldwide. This impacts their quality of life and limits their daily activities. Traditional forms of pain relief often involve the use of pain control medications, which can come with a variety of side effects. Hence, this has led to a rise in the popularity of alternative management of pain techniques like TENS therapy. This article will present pain management using TENS, including how it works and the benefits it can give.
What is a TENS Pain Management?
TENS pain management is a treatment that utilises an electrical device to deliver electrical impulses to the nerves via electrode pads placed on the skin. It is often utilised by healthcare professionals and physical therapists. They usually include TENS as a treatment plan for patients. Also, individuals may use TENS units at home or on the go as a method of pain relief.
The TENS devices come in wired and wireless forms. Wired TENS units (traditional) consist of a control module connected to electrode patches by lead cables. On the other hand, wireless TENS units eliminate the need for physical wires. Hence, it provides freedom of movement during the therapy. Nevertheless, both devices offer various features, such as adjustable settings and pre-set programs.
Furthermore, using a TENS unit involves several simple steps. Firstly, prepare the device. Then, identify the treatment area, clean the skin, and position the electrode pads. Following the proper electrode placement is essential in this step. Next, turn on the TENS device. This may include adjusting the setting or choosing a pre-set program. Finally, initiate the stimulation for pain relief and complete the recommended duration.
- Acute pain conditions: a discomfort that is usually short-term. This is often related to primary dysmenorrhoea, postoperative pain, injury, and tension headaches.
- Chronic pain conditions: this persists over a prolonged period. TENS can provide an ongoing level of pain relief for conditions such as arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, and backaches.
- Neuropathic pain: results from dysfunctional nerves. This includes conditions like diabetic neuropathy, sciatica, and nerve-related discomfort.
- Musculoskeletal pain: this relates to the muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. It involves ailments like knee joint pain, osteoarthritis pain, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Muscular pain: this arises from sore muscles, achy muscles, muscle tension, and spasms.
How a TENS Pain Management Works
TENS pain management works by employing several physiological mechanisms. One key aspect of the effectiveness of TENS lies in its ability to stimulate the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the natural “feel-good” chemicals of the body. Accordingly, it binds to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. As a result, it reduces the levels of pain intensity and creates a sense of well-being.
Another way TENS therapy exerts its analgesic effects is through the activation of the pain gate mechanism. When a TENS device delivers electric currents to the nerves, it essentially “closes the pain gate” by activating non-painful sensory nerve fibres. Hence, these effectively compete with and override the transmission of pain messages to the brain.
In addition, TENS treatment can influence blood flow. This is an integral part of the natural healing process of the body. The electrical stimulation from TENS can help promote vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels. This increased blood circulation can enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. Also, it facilitates the removal of metabolic and inflammatory substances.
Low and High Frequencies
TENS therapy utilises electrical stimulation at both low and high frequencies to effectively address different types of pain. Low-Frequency (LF) TENS typically involves the use of frequencies below 10 Hertz (Hz). This setting is associated with the activation of the natural pain control mechanism of the body, particularly the endorphins. Hence, this is beneficial for managing chronic pain conditions.
Meanwhile, High-Frequency (HF) TENS involves the application of frequencies above 50 Hz. This setting is believed to act primarily by blocking the transmission of pain signals (inhibitory mechanisms). Nevertheless, HF TENS therapy is valuable for treating acute pain conditions.
Benefits of TENS Pain Management
TENS pain management offers a wide range of benefits. One of the primary advantages of TENS is its versatility. This treatment can address both acute and chronic pain conditions. Furthermore, TENS therapy offers a non-invasive and non-pharmacological intervention. Unlike invasive procedures or surgeries, TENS does not require incisions or the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
The customisable nature of TENS treatment further contributes to its effectiveness. Individuals can adjust the device setting, particularly the pulse rate, pulse intensity, and pulse duration. Another notable benefit of TENS devices is their portability. The units are usually lightweight and compact. This empowers individuals to use TENS at home, work, or on the go.
Consequently, TENS therapy is cost-effective. It offers a non-invasive and drug-free approach that can reduce the reliance on expensive medications or invasive procedures. Hence, this potentially lowers overall healthcare costs. Finally, TENS treatment can serve as an adjunct intervention. It can complement other treatments, such as physical therapy and chiropractic care.
Signs to See a Doctor
If the intensity of the pain suddenly changes, it is advisable to seek medical evaluation. This could indicate a worsening underlying condition that requires attention. Also, the continued skin irritation, redness, or discomfort of the electrode placement site may necessitate medical assessment. These symptoms may signify an allergic reaction or skin sensitivity that needs to be addressed.
Persistent muscle twitching or spasms beyond the duration of the TENS session may warrant medical evaluation. These could indicate an abnormal response to the electrical stimulation. Additionally, experiencing persistent fatigue or weakness may signal the need to see a doctor.
In conclusion, TENS pain management is a valuable and effective technique. It is a therapy that uses a wired or wireless device to deliver electrical currents to the body. This tool is commonly used by professionals, therapists, and individuals. Consequently, TENS works by blocking the transmission of pain signals, prompting the production and release of endorphins, and improving blood flow. Additionally, the electrical impulses from TENS can stream in high and low frequencies.
With such mechanisms, TENS therapy can treat various conditions. This includes injuries, headaches, arthritic pain, backaches, diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, and achy muscles. Furthermore, TENS provides numerous benefits to users. It is versatile, non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, portable, cost-effective, and can complement other treatment strategies. Nevertheless, knowing the signs when to see a doctor is crucial. TENS devices are available in the marketplace, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.