How effective is a TENS machine for pain relief?


Whether you have suffered from chronic pain for many years, or you are experiencing recent acute pain as the result of a surgery or accident, chances are that you are willing to try just about all forms of pain relief therapy in an effort to be free of crippling pain. Your medical provider may have mentioned a TENS device to you, as a form of drug-free therapy. For a patient who is looking for natural painkillers as an alternative to potentially addictive prescription pain medications that could also interfere with the body’s ability to heal, the TENS machine offers a great solution.


A Quick Understanding of TENS

The TENS unit, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit, is a portable device that works by using both a low frequency stimulation and a high frequency stimulation to directly target several types of pain. While the idea of an electric current entering your body might make you a bit hesitant to start TENS therapy, you should rest assured that the electrical stimulation is of a very low frequency – even during the higher frequency sessions. During a TENS session most patients report feeling nothing more than a very mild tingling sensation on their skin where the electrodes are attached; while every person is capable of having a different reaction to various therapies, you are unlikely to feel any sensations that interfere with your levels of comfort.

The TENS machine uses two forms of therapeutic treatment to help reduce the intensity of the pain that the patient is experiencing. The first form of treatment is to use a very low frequency stimulation that will encourage your brain to release endorphins into your system; endorphins can be equated to being the body’s version of natural painkillers. With a flood of endorphins entering into your system you may feel immediate pain relief. The second for of treatment is to use a slightly higher frequency electrical stimulation that targets the affected nerves that are telling your brain that the area is experiencing pain. By making a slight adjustment to the messages that the nerves are sending to the brain, the patient may be able to feel rapid relief from the pain – simply because their brain is no longer recognising it as being an area of pain.

The Effectiveness of TENS

It is very important to note that every pain patient will respond in a different manner to every single treatment; it is the rare form of therapy that is proven to be effective for every chronic pain patient. Your health professional may use TENS therapy as just one of several effective forms of treatment in an effort to treat both the underlying cause of your pain and the actual pain itself.

If you have severe muscle and nerve damage as a result of a degenerative joint condition, you may find that TENS therapy offers only a temporary type of pain relief. However, many patients with rheumatoid arthritis have reported that TENS therapy offers them at least two weeks of pain relief. Keep in mind, again, that every patient does respond in a different manner to each form of therapy.

One of the best aspects of using TENS therapy is that the use of a TENS machine will offer very few side-effects and your TENS therapy will not interfere or otherwise adversely affect any other forms of treatment or medication that you are currently taking. The majority of patients feel only the slightest of tingling sensations during therapy sessions; while, in extreme cases, some patients have reported painful muscle spasms, this side-effect was very likely as the direct result of a failure to follow the directions correctly.

As a prescription-drug free alternative for the relief of pain, a TENS unit offers on demand pain-relief to patients. While a health professional can certainly administer the treatments in an office setting, the extreme affordability and portability of the device means that patients can have the freedom to administer their own treatments in the comfort of their own home. If you opt for in-home therapy you should be sure that you fully understand the most effective placement of the electrodes; if the electrodes are not placed in a position to directly target your pain, you will not receive the full benefit of the therapy.

Looking for a Tens Unit? Check out our Tens Unit Reviews.


About Andy

Andy writes for a number of health related sites but has always been fascinated by alternative medicine and home remedies. His deep interests in nature and the body's innate ability to heal itself (given the right condition) have lead him to a pivotal time in his life - and so, Holistic Home Fitness was born. While it's relatively new at the moment, Andy wants to build this site into a huge reference site for a more holistic approach to health and fitness.