A TENS machine is a safe alternative to pain reducing medications. TENS is an acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Transcutaneous means “across the skin” and Nerve Stimulation refers to the electricity running through the skin and structures close to the skin.
A TENS unit is a small, light weight battery operated unit. It is either two (single channel) or four (dual channel). This simply means how many piujnt sof contact you can have and thus how many locations you can treat simultaneously. Most of the time self-adhesive electrodes are used and can be reused many times.
The TENS unit usually has set of parameters that allow you to change the specific result the machine will give. Thee include frequency, pulse rate, timer and intensity.
The electrodes are normally positioned over the area of pain but other more advanced applications may often prove better. Your physiotherapist is an expert in the application of TENS. If you are in doubt, please ask your Physiotherapist for specific advice to assist your pain relief via TENS.
Some TENS Uses
- Arthritis (Rheumatoid / Osteo)
- Back Pain
- Childbirth (Labour Pain)
- Chronic Pain
- Joint Pain: Hip, Knee, Foot, Shoulder, Elbow, Hand
- Ligament Injuries
- Muscular Strains
- Neck Pain
- Period Pains
- Phantom Limb Pain (Post-Amputation)
- Post-Operative Pain
- Soft Tissue Injuries: eg Bruising, Sprains and Strains
- Sports Injury
- Tendonitis/ Tendinosis / Tendinopathy
- Tennis Elbow
- Basically Most pain states
Must NOT Use
- Use across the chest or head
- Metal to the surface of your skin (concentrates charge)
- If you have a pacemaker (stimulator, defrib)
- Front of your neck (acute hypotension – vasovagal reflex or laryngospasm)
- Open wounds or broken/ irritated skin areas
- Over Malignant tumour (electricity promotes cell growth).
- Directly over the spinal column (may be placed either side of your spinal column).
- Internally, (except professionally dental, vaginal, and anal stimulation)
- If you have Epilepsy
- If you are Pregnant
- Caution used numb skin/decreased sensation
- Areas of Infection (possible spreading).
- Do not use other people electrodes.
What are the Benefits of using a TENS Machine?
- Drug Free
- Reduces Pain – Has Short and Long Term effects (Proven!)
- Portable – take away with you, sleep with it on
- Easy to Use
- Inexpensive to Buy and Run
How Does a TENS Machine Relieve Your Pain?
2 main Theories:
- Pain Gating – Exposing your nerves with “alternative” sensation to override the pain signals.
- Stimulate your body to Release its own pain killers- Endogenous Opioids and Serotonin
Science of TENS
- Activates delta-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the medulla.
- Reduces excitation (transmission) of neurons that transmit nociceptive (pain)
- Reduces release of excitatory neurotransmitters (glutamate)
- Increases the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters (GABA) in the spinal cord
- Activates muscarinic receptors centrally to produce analgesia
- Activates beta-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and supraspinally.
- Releases serotonin and activates serotonin receptors in the spinal cord,
- Releases GABA,
- Activates muscarinic receptors to reduce excitability of nociceptive neurons in the spinal cord.
- Opiods are your bodies own pain killers (hormones – endorphins, enkephalins, and dynorphins),
- Seratonin – Happiness hormone
Small fast electrical impulses, travel faster to the spinal cord than the slower pain impulse. The first impulse to reach the spinal cord wins the race and blocks out the other signals. Likewise the pain fibres are smaller than the other fibres, meaning that more alternate stimulus can reach the cord than pain signals. This leads to pain relief and is known as the Gate Pain Control Theory.
By the same logic rubbing, acupuncture, tens machines, hot bags and ice packs can work in the same fashion.
The Best TENS Machine for You
There are a wide variety available, each having their own pro’s and con’s. For the best advice ask you Physiotherapist.
To order a TENS, please conplete the contact form and explain the purpose of its use.