What does TENS mean?
The word TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. This basically means that it sends a small amount of electricity just under the surface of your skin to activate your nerve endings.
Does the idea of putting electricity into your body make you nervous? It's common to feel that way, but TENS is actually very safe. It runs on a few small batteries and doesn't make enough of an electrical current to cause injury. The nerves in your body use electrical signals to send messages to your brain, so in a way TENS is able to use your body's own 'language' to decrease your pain.
How Does TENS help relieve pain?
Some people are concerned that using a TENS unit will be painful, but many of them actually find it very comfortable after they try it. The feeling caused by TENS is often described as a tickling feeling, a massage, or like 'ants marching' on your skin.
But how does that help pain? Think of it like a bandage. When you have a cut, you cover it with a bandage. When you have pain, TENS works in a similar way to 'cover up' the pain. When you use a TENS unit you feel the TENS instead of the pain. It's a way to distract your brain from getting the pain message from your achy or injured area.
Will TENS heal your injury?
It's important to note that TENS does not treat the cause of your pain. It's a kind of pain reliever, but it won't correct the underlying problem. However, it can be a beneficial part of an early treatment program combined with other medical therapies and rehabilitation.
How do you know if TENS is right for you?
Even though TENS can be a very effective treatment for pain, it's not for everyone. You should not use TENS on a part of your body where you have lost feeling because of an old injury, a burn, or neuropathy. You should also not use TENS over certain body parts such as your eyes. If you have a heart condition or use a pacemaker you may or may not be able to use TENS. Your medical doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor can tell you if TENS is the right kind of pain reliever for you. If you receive a TENS unit from your doctor you will be trained on how to use and care for it safely.
Can you use your old TENS unit for a new injury?
To be safe, your TENS unit should be in good working order and should have the batteries replaced regularly. If you have an old unit that hasn't been used in a while, it's a good idea to have it inspected by a medical professional to make sure it's up to par. It's also a good idea to talk to a medical professional before you use your old TENS unit for a new injury. You want to be sure that it's the best treatment before you proceed.