The acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is TENS. This is a pain relief method that involves a device that transmits electrical impulses via electrodes on the skin to a specific area of the body that is painful. It is useful for the relief of acute and chronic pain. Electric stimulation for pain management goes back to the Ancient Greeks and, more recently, Benjamin Franklin was a great proponent of the concept. However, the first patented modern machine made its debut during 1974 in the USA.
TENS has proved to be effective for many types of pain. It is commonly used during childbirth, after surgery, for bursitis, tension headaches, tendonitis, cancer, chronic wounds, arthritis, migraine headaches, injuries, and other painful conditions. Medical practitioners believe that the technique stimulates the body to produce endorphins which are natural painkillers. However, they do not claim that this therapy addresses the root cause of pain. Its primary use is to offer short-term relief while healing is occurring.
A TENS device enterprises of an electric unit that is connected to electrodes. These are attached to the skin near the targeted area. When the device is switched on, a low-voltage current is delivered into the body. During therapy, the patient will feel a warm, tingling sensation.
A session usually lasts between 5 and 15 minutes. Treatment may take place as often as necessary according to the severity of the pain. TENS can best be described as an electrical massage. It is widely used by physiotherapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors. Portable systems are available so that patients can apply the therapy at home.
In the USA, there are over 100 different types of portable TENS machines which have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. However, the public may not use them unless authorized by a medical practitioner. Some units deliver the electrical impulses via acupuncture needles. This method has to be performed by a qualified health care practitioner.
Research indicates that TENS therapy has shown some efficiencies with cancer patients, especially those who have neuropathic pain which is related to nerve or tissue damage. In such cases, TENS works best when combined with medication. It has shown to be particularly helpful to relieve painful bones and muscles after major surgical procedures.
Patients who are allergic to adhesives may react adversely to the electrode pads. This therapy is not suitable for patients who have heart problems. Also, it should not be administrated to people with implanted defibrillators, pacemakers, infusion pumps, or any other internal device that may malfunction due to the electrical current. If a woman suspects she may be pregnant, she should advise the practitioner because the effects on an unborn fetus are not yet known.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is otherwise considered to be safe. Anyone applying the treatment at home should take care that the current is not too intense because it may irritate or burn the skin. Never place the electrodes near the throat, brain, heart, or over the eyes. Always ensure that you know how to operate the device correctly and that you have received instruction from a professional practitioner.