Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatment has been around for nearly half a century, and it’s come a long way since it was first discovered that mild electrical pulses can provide effective, drug-free pain relief.
It has become an increasingly important tool used by physiotherapists looking to provide pain relief from arthritis, rheumatism, back ache and a host of other conditions.
The past fifty years have also seen TENS treatments being used to ease pain and discomfort associated with an even wider range of conditions; from migraines and period pain to sciatica to stiff joints. In recent years it has even been used to ease the pain of childbirth.
Another major step forward for TENS has been the evolution of devices used to deliver the treatment. In fact TENS machines have come a long way since they were used only in expensive, private physiotherapy clinics and other medical institutions. Today’s TENS machines, are compact, inexpensive and perfectly suited to use at home or even when out and about.
Modern devices, including those supplied by the UK’s market leading TENS machine supplier, The Tens+ Company, offer a wide range functions and settings enabling users to find the ideal treatment regime for their own individual needs.
These TENS machines usually consist of a small box containing a battery with wires leading to self-adhesive tens electrode pads, Whilst the box can easily be attached to a belt or even carried in a pocket, the TENS electrodes are placed on either side of, on top of, or close to the painful area. When the TENS machine is switched on, users experience a tingling sensation under the pads. The latest TENS machines enable users to adjust the strength of the electrical current and the frequency of pulses. Pre-set programs also help to make it easier to find the ideal setting.
Decades of research has shown that the TENS machine can provide pain relief by disrupting signals to the brain and other evidence suggest that the TENS machine may also stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s own, natural pain relievers. The third mechanism by which tens machines can work is through a distraction mechanism; they may literally take your mind off the pain.
Studies over the years have also shown that the way people use their TENS machine may also have an impact on the benefits they receive from transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
Common strategies that have evolved include:
- Using the TENS machine only on a bad day or during a flare up of a problem to help cope and get through the pain.
- Using a TENS intermittently during the day during a rest break and sometimes in combination with relaxation techniques.
- Using TENS when engaging in specific activities (walking, sitting for long periods, etc), which would otherwise have been difficult because of pain.
- Using TENS first thing in the morning, to help with the extra pain and stiffness that some people experience when they get out of bed.
Most importantly, it pays to stick with the treatment, and experiment with different settings and routines. Everyone is different and while some will feel the benefits of TENS treatments immediately, for others it may take a short period to start working.