What is a TENS unit and does it work?

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit is a battery-operated device that some people use to treat pain.
TENS units work by delivering small electrical impulses through electrodes that have adhesive pads to attach them to a person’s skin.

These electrical impulses flood the nervous system, reducing its ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain.A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit is a device that sends small electrical currents to targeted body parts. These currents are used to relieve pain. Some TENS units are designed for use in a hospital or healthcare facility. Others are safe to use at home. TENS therapy subdues hyperalgesia, which is a high sensitivity to pain. The pain may be located anywhere on the body.

The same electrical impulses also stimulate the body to produce natural pain relievers called endorphins.
In this article, learn more about the uses of a TENS machine and the research on its effectiveness.

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TENS Unit Benefits

TENS is a noninvasive method for relieving pain. People who experience pain relief from TENS may be able to reduce their intake of pain medications, some of which can be addictive or cause adverse side effects.

TENS units are also convenient because they are small, portable, and relatively discrete. People can carry a TENS unit in their pocket or clip it onto a belt to ensure that they have immediate access to pain relief throughout the day.

  • Period Pain
  • Labor Pain
  • Postoperative Pain
  • Joint Pain
  • Neck and Back Pain

What is (TENS) Therapy Used

TENS therapy has been used or is being studied to relieve both chronic (long lasting) and acute (short-term) pain. Some of the most common conditions for which TENS has been used include:

  • Osteoarthritis (disease of the joints).
  • Fibromyalgia (aching and pain in muscles, tendons, and joints all over the body, especially along the spine.
  • Tendinitis (an inflammation or irritation of a tendon).
  • Bursitis (inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion joints).
  • Labor pain.
  • Low back pain.
  • Chronic pelvic pain.
  • Diabetic neuropathy (damage to the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body).
  • Peripheral artery disease (“hardening of the arteries” that circulate blood to the body).

How does transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) work?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses low voltage electrical current to provide pain relief. A TENS unit consists of a battery-powered device that delivers electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the surface of your skin. The electrodes are placed at or near nerves where the pain is located or at trigger points.

One theory is that the electric current stimulates nerve cells that block the transmission of pain signals, modifying your perception of pain. The other theory is that nerve stimulation raises the level of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-killing chemical. The endorphins then block the perception of pain.