TENS units – what is a TENS machine?

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If you suffer from chronic pain you may find that you are willing to explore any avenue in order to find relief from the pain that has started to interfere with your quality of life. Your medical professional might be recommending that you start treatment using a TENS machine; however, as many patients are hesitant to start new treatments, having all of the relevant information and a thorough understanding of what the machine is as well as how this device can help you to find relief may just put your mind at ease.

Understanding TENS

The treatment of pain, ranging in intensity from acute to chronic, using electrical stimulation is not a new therapy. It has, in fact, been around in one shape or form for several centuries.

Thankfully today we are not required to seek out electric eels or fly kites in thunderstorms in order to find pain relief therapy by means of electrical stimulation. TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a very safe and non-invasive therapy that can prove to be effective for the reduction of pain.

The TENS machine has been proven as an effective treatment for pain that is a result of arthritis, as a result of surgery, or general musculoskeletal pain that may have no specific cause. Where conventional methods that incorporate the use of heavy drugs and extensive and invasive therapies have failed or are simply not viable options, TENS has shown to be effective at alleviating the level of pain that patients feel.

How TENS Works

TENS machines work by delivering a very small electric pulse into the patient’s body by way of a transcutaneous delivery method. This means that the electrical pulses are passed into the body through the small electrodes that are placed onto the patient’s skin.

When the device is set to a high-setting, the TENS machine works by changing the signals the patient’s body is sending to his or her brain via the nerves in the body. If you can change the way that the brain interprets the signals that it receives, you can, in effect, change the way that the body reacts to what it is experiencing – in this case the body is experiencing pain. By reducing the pain signals you will be able to reduce the pain that is actually being experienced.

If the TENS device is set to a low frequency it works to produce a different result – a low setting will encourage the body to produce a natural chemical that has pain relieving properties. By releasing these chemicals, known as endorphins, patients who are unable to take prescription pain relievers can finally receive the pain relief that they have been longing for.

Depending on the frequency and the intensity of the pulse setting, patients should be able to receive two types of positive benefits from using a TENS machine.

TENS Side Effects

One key advantage to the use of a TENS machine is that it cannot only prove to be an effective replacement for prescription pain relievers, but it will also not interfere with any other medications that you may be currently taking. Drug interactions are often a major concern for patients who have chronic pain accompanying a host of other health problems; the TENS machine removes that concern from the equation and offers nothing but the potential for pain relief.

There are no known side effects of using a TENS machine other than patients feeling a mild tingling sensation when the device is working; however there are several categories of patient conditions that should not include using electrical stimulation therapy.

  • Patients who have a heart condition, heart disease, or those who currently use a pacemaker; use of the TENS machine could interfere with the functionality of a pacemaker.
  • Patients who have been diagnosed as being epileptic or who suffer from seizures and have not yet received their diagnosis; the low frequency electric current from the TENS unit could unintentionally cause a seizure.
  • Pregnant women should avoid using the TENS machine unless the doctor monitoring their pregnancy has recommended it for the treatment of joint conditions that plague pregnant women.

It is important to note that every person’s tolerance to pain is different and, with that in mind, not every pain patient will be able to reap the benefits of using a TENS machine. Consult with your health professional to further determine if an electrical nerve stimulation unit will be effective to relieve your type of pain.

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.