What Is TENS?
TENS stands for "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation". TENS therapy is an alternative or complementary treatment that is used to alleviate pain. During a TENS therapy session, small pads called electrodes are attached to the skin. A unit is then hooked up to the electrodes with a system of wires. When the TENS unit is turned on, an electrical current flows from the device through the wires and is distributed to the skin by the electrodes.
What Is TENS Used For?
TENS therapy may be recommended for many different types of chronic pain, including muscle injuries, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, joint pain, lower back and neck pain, migraines and pain related to cancer. It may also be used following surgery to address pain symptoms during recovery.
How Does TENS Work?
Doctors and scientists are still studying how TENS therapy may benefit the body. Some believe that the electrical current sends messages to the brain that disrupt pain signals, temporarily fooling the body into thinking that the pain has stopped. Other researchers postulate that the flow of electricity causes the body to produce chemicals called endorphins that work as natural pain relievers.
Does TENS Work?
Research into the potential benefits of TENS therapy is ongoing, and results from studies have been mixed thus far. As a result, there is not enough evidence to know for sure if TENS therapy is beneficial for all individuals suffering from any particular kind of pain; however, TENS therapy has been used in clinical settings for patients and prescribed for home use since the 1960s.
How To Choose a TENS Unit
There are a wide variety of home TENS therapy devices available on the market, so you'll need to weigh the options available and ensure that you purchase the right one for your needs. Some TENS therapy devices are designed for use on only one part of the body, while others offer modes for use on various areas of the body. Many TENS therapy devices use self-adhesive electrodes that can only be used once or reused a handful of times before they must be thrown away. If you choose a model with disposable electrodes, you may wish to stock up on electrode refills for ongoing treatments at home.
Best Practices for TENS Therapy Treatment
Before using a TENS therapy device at home, be sure to consult your doctor. While the therapy is generally considered safe for most people, not everyone should use a TENS therapy machine. Only use the device for as long as is recommended by the manufacturer or your doctor. Do not use the device more frequently or extend your sessions for longer than the recommended time. Read the instructions for use carefully and discontinue if your pain worsens or you notice any unusual side effects.
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