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Health & Wellness

How Is TENS Used for Pain Relief?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive, drug-free treatment for pain relief. It seems almost too good to be true - place adhesive pads around the painful area, turn on the unit, and voila! An electrical current runs from the machine to your skin and relieves you of pain that may have lasted months or even years.

While there is evidence that it helps for certain conditions, the results are not permanent. Many have found that their pain is reduced while using a TENS unit, but this relief is only temporary. TENS doesn’t cure the underlying problem that is causing the pain in the first place. Instead, it gives patients a form of relief - such as prescription pain medications do.

One of the main benefits of using a TENS unit for pain management is the fact that it can help reduce the number of pain medications you require. In some cases, TENS can replace pain medications altogether. On the other hand, some people have found that they need to continue to increase the intensity of the unit to feel the same relief. To avoid developing a tolerance, the use of a TENS unit should be alternated with other forms of pain relief.

Studies on TENS units for pain management


Scientists have conducted a handful of studies on the use of TENS in pain management. A study published in January 2016 found that the use of TENS helped to reduce pain and postpone the need for pain medication during labor. In the study, 46 women in the first stage of labor were split into two groups: experimental and control. The results found that those in the experimental group experienced significantly less pain during the first stage of labor than those in the control group. They also were able to hold off using pharmacological analgesia for approximately 5 hours longer than those in the control group. 1 A handful of other studies came to the same conclusion. 2, 3

A different sort of study published in January 2010 assessed the hypoalgesic effects of high-frequency and low-frequency TENS on blunt pressure pain. Hypoalgesic refers to a decrease in sensitivity to painful stimuli. In the study, 32 participants received TENS at a frequency of either 3 pulses per second or 80 pulses per second. Those who received TENS at 80 pulses per second exhibited a higher pain threshold. 4

TENS is easy and effective


You can purchase a TENS unit online or at a local pharmacy. You should speak with your doctor before use to determine the proper settings for your condition. Once you have the proper settings, you can easily use the unit in your own home.

Simply place the adhesive pads around the painful area, turn on the machine, and let it do its job. The electric currents stimulate certain nerve pathways to reduce the perception of pain. They also help to stimulate the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers. By combining TENS with other natural pain-relieving treatments, you can finally find relief.

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