TENS units and how they can help you manage pain (full sample)
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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) devices use low voltage electricity to provide temporary relief for muscular pain. These devices are readily available from pharmacies and can provide relief from mild muscular discomfort. This article explains how the TENS unit works and the benefits people can expect to experience.
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A TENS unit is a small electrical device that stimulates muscles and nerves via electrical impulses to help the user manage his or her pain and discomfort. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and the device functions as follows:
The patient attaches wires to the battery-powered TENS unit.
The other end of the wires attach to pads that conduct electricity.
These pads are applied to the body over the affected area, normally using a gel for good conductivity.
The TENS unit is turned on; the strength and rate of the electrical pulses can be easily altered.
A typical TENS treatments lasts for between 10 and 30 minutes.
The pads are then removed and cleaned.
Pain relief typically lasts for two to three hours.
The experience of using a TENS unit is not uncomfortable, since it only uses low voltage impulses to stimulate the nerves and muscles. A patient will feel a tingling or slightly stronger sensation, but it does not hurt. The pulses that the TENS machine produces are typically either quite rapid (more than 40 or 50 per second) or quite slow (5 to 10 per second).
The principle behind using a TENS unit is that the electrical impulses alternately stimulate and relax muscles around the affected area. Among other benefits this can promote relaxation in the muscles and promote blood flow to stimulate healing.
TENS units are most effective at treating mild sprains, pulls, aches and pains, including low-grade chronic pain in muscles and can provide relief for several hours. It is often useful to combine TENS treatments with standard pain-reducing anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen. The best time to use TENS is in the mid to late evening, prior to sleep to make it easier to fall asleep if you have pain.
TENS units should not be used on the front of the neck, on the chest if you have a pacemaker, through the chest (i.e., pads placed on both your chest and back), close to open wounds or directly over the spinal column.
TENS treatment is not very effective for acute or substantial pain, which should always be referred to a doctor or other medical specialist.
Content originally written by Paul Maplesden, a freelance writer, and edited by me.