More than 25 million American adults experience pain every day. Pain that lasts for more than six weeks is considered chronic, and it can be disruptive to your life, difficult from a psychological perspective, and damaging to your relationships. One potentially helpful treatment approach is the use of a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit, or TENS therapy.
TENS therapy uses low voltage electrical currents to stimulate your nerves. If that sounds scary, don’t worry. For many of the patients who come to APEX Medical Center, TENS therapy provides relief from chronic pain. Our team of highly qualified experts only recommend TENS therapy to patients who meet specific criteria.
TENS therapy, explained
When you have TENS therapy, you use a small machine that has electrodes connected to it. You place the electrodes to your skin, and the machine delivers an electrical current which travels along your nerves.
TENS units can be set to deliver varying amounts of electrical current. Even though TENS units are available without a prescription, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it to determine if it’s likely to help you, where the electrodes should be placed, and what settings you need to use.
One theory about why TENS therapy works is that the electrical current blocks or confuses the pain signal from your nerve to your brain. Another is that the small electrical current stimulates your body to produce endorphins, which are natural painkillers.
Who should not use TENS therapy
TENS therapy can be a good solution for many people with chronic pain, but there are a few people who should either be very cautious or avoid it altogether.
For example, pregnant people should not use electrical stimulation for pain relief. People with certain heart conditions should be extremely cautious about it.
If you have an implanted medical device like a pacemaker, defibrillator, or infusion pump, you’re not a candidate for TENS therapy.
Why TENS therapy might be a good choice
Chronic pain is debilitating, and can certainly degrade your quality of life, limiting the things you can do. It can affect your mood and hurt your relationships with other people. However, there are many good reasons to avoid pharmaceutical treatments for pain relief.
TENS therapy may be a good option to relieve your pain, and it may be one component of a larger pain relief plan. With TENS therapy, there are few side effects. Very rarely, a patient is far more sensitive to the electrical current than expected and may experience some skin irritation or a minor burn at the site of the electrode.
You don’t become addicted to TENS therapy, and it doesn’t impact your ability to drive. If it turns out to be a good option for you, you may be able to purchase a unit for home use.
Types of pain TENS therapy helps
TENS therapy has been used to treat all sorts of pain conditions, from post-surgical pain to fibromyalgia pain, and many others. Low back pain is one of the most prevalent types of chronic pain, and TENS therapy helps many people who live with it. Other conditions that may respond to TENS therapy include:
- Joint pain
- Cancer pain
- Neck pain
- Menstrual cramping
Many other conditions may respond well to TENS therapy. As long as your doctor doesn’t find a reason you’re not a good candidate and you have chronic pain, TENS therapy may be a solution for you.
It’s always crucial to make sure you consult your doctor prior to trying any pain management technique or therapy. Understanding the underlying cause of your pain, and making sure the therapy is appropriate for you, are important first steps in treating your pain.
If you’d like to learn more about TENS therapy and find out if it might be a good option for you, schedule an appointment at Apex Medical Center today.