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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation For Neuropathic Pain: Overview

An elderly man holding his hand due to finger pain

Neuropathic conditions are caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system. This type of ache can be chronic and difficult to treat, often felt as a shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation. Fortunately, there is a method of pain relief known as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for neuropathic pain or TENS. It incorporates the use of a device that emits electrical impulses. Accordingly, it works by delivering electric stimulation to the nerves through the use of electrode pads.

The pain scale of neuropathic conditions is debilitating, affecting millions of people worldwide. It is often a pain in people which is difficult to manage and can significantly impact the quality of life. Traditional pain management methods may not always be effective, leading neuropathic pain participants to explore alternative therapies. One such option is TENS which is a non-invasive and drug-free solution. This article will present more about the TENS for the condition, how it works, and the safety guidelines.

What is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Neuropathic Pain

The transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for neuropathic pain utilises a small, battery-operated device to have pain control. It is a therapy that functions by sending gentle electrical currents through the skin with the use of electrode patches. This electrical stimulation can work in multiple ways to reduce the perception of pain and promote a sense of well-being from neuropathic aches.

Accordingly, the human body has nerves that carry signals to and from the brain. When these nerves are damaged or not working well, they can send out pain signals even when there is no injury or cause for the pain. Fortunately, TENS can help to change or block pain signals being sent by the damaged nerves, which can lessen the feelings of aches.

TENS units are available in the market with different functionalities. The most common TENS have wires and are operated with disposable batteries. Meanwhile, as technology advances, TENS can come in wireless and rechargeable battery services. Also, some TENS provide preset programs for the direct treatment of a specific type of ache, including nerve pain.

Common Related Pain Conditions that Can Be Treated

The following are the related painful conditions a TENS can treat, whether chronic pain or acute pain:

  • Diabetic neuropathy – this occurs in people with diabetes or people with high levels of blood sugar.
  • Phantom limb pain – after an amputation, some people may feel aches in the missing limb.
  • Postherpetic neuralgia – it occurs as a complication of shingles, a viral infection.
  • Nerve pain from spinal cord injuries – this may include the feelings of shooting or electric shock-like sensations.
  • Sciatica – it is an ailment due to the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. This often results in numbness or tingling down the back leg.

A female person holding her foot while on bed

How Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Neuropathic Pain Works

In general, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for neuropathic pain works by streaming low-level electrical pulses through to the nerves through electrodes that are in the skin. When the TENS device is on, it sends electrical signals that travel along nerve fibres, creating a tingling sensation. These electrical stimulations have several mechanisms action in relieving nerve aches.

One way TENS helps is by functioning through the gate pain mechanism. According to this theory, the electrical current from TENS can stimulate non-painful sensory nerves. This action helps to close the gate that allows pain signals to pass through to the brain. Thus, it creates a reduction in pain intensity. Subsequently, TENS can also trigger the release of endorphins.

Endorphins are the natural painkillers of the body. These act as natural relievers, and their release can help reduce the perception of neuropathic aches. Another way TENS may help with the condition is by improving blood flow. TENS can cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to more blood circulating in the area. This can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Advantages Over Other Treatment Methods

The stimulation for treatment offers numerous benefits. Firstly, it is non-invasive. This means that it does not require any injections or surgical procedures. Secondly, no medication side effects. TENS therapy does not produce systemic effects such as drowsiness or dizziness. Thirdly, it allows for targeted ache relief. This approach is beneficial to focus treatment on the aching regions.

Additionally, most TENS have adjustable settings. This enables users to customise treatment as they can modify the frequency, intensity, and duration of the treatment. Also, using a TENS is cost-effective. Users can have long-term pain relief without the need for frequent clinical assessments.

A woman utilising TENS in her arms and legs

Safety Guidelines for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Neuropathic Pain

When using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for neuropathic pain, it is important to follow safety guidelines. Before starting TENS therapy, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional. This is particularly vital for people with serious medical conditions. Then, it is important to know the correct electrode placement. It is advisable to provide at least a one-inch gap to the pads.

Furthermore, avoid placing the pads on sensitive areas, such as the eyes, mouth, throat, chest, or broken skin. Before applying the electrodes, the skin should be clean and dry to facilitate optimal electrode contact. Accordingly, it is recommended to start the therapy with the lowest settings and gradually increase it to a comfortable level. This is to avoid electric shocks and discomfort.

Also, it is vital to adhere to a specific duration of treatment sessions. The advisable time is 15 to 30 minutes, and have a break for longer sessions. People with medical implants, cancer, or pregnancy must consult a medical provider before using TENS. Moreover, do not use TENS while in contact with water, driving, sleeping, or operating machinery.

When to Seek Medical Help

When using TENS for nerve pain, it is important to know when to seek medical help. If a user experiences intense discomfort even after adjusting the settings, they should consult a professional promptly. If the skin under the electrodes develops any skin irritation or redness, it is essential to seek help.

Also, any unusual physical reactions that emerge during or after therapy should be reported to a professional. This may include dizziness, headaches, muscle twitching, or changes in sensation. The effectiveness of TENS varies for people, thus, it is crucial to note every reaction and see medical professionals.


One popular method of pain relief for people is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for neuropathic pain. The unit works by delivering low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate the nerves which provide ways of ache relief. Accordingly, TENS functions in ways of pain gate, the release of endorphins, and improving blood circulation. With such mechanisms, it helps in managing different types of pain whether acute or chronic neuropathic aches.

Subsequently, TENS can treat neuropathic conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy, phantom limb pain, postherpetic neuralgia, sciatica, and more. Also, the TENS units provide a lot of benefits. It is non-invasive, has no medication side effects, has adjustable settings and is cost-effective. Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognise the safety guidelines for using TENS. This consists of consulting a medical practitioner, knowing the proper pad placement, avoiding sensitive areas, and using the lowest settings.

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