What do you instinctively do when there’s a pain on your back or anywhere on your body?
Most people would intuitively stroke, rub or massage the painful areas to relieve the pain.
What if the pain is acute, chronic, or won’t subside after a while? You will have to rely on the doctor’s recommendation to find other pain controlling method.
Among them, TENS is the most effective and quick choice for pain relief. It is trusted by doctors and stands strong through various researches.
In this article, we will explore applications of TENS in professional medical uses.
Read on to know why doctors from all over the world trusts in TENS devices to rehabiliate their patients.
TENS units as useful means of pain control
Throughout history, mankind has used many methods to stimulate the skin to relieve painful conditions. The most common methods include heated packs, cold ice, massage, laser, and acupuncture.
Last but not least, the recent year has seen the rise of using electrical currents to ease the pain.
Electrical currents have the capacity to excite the body tissues, including tissues in nervous system. Hence, the electrical currents can be used to stimulate local areas on the body to reduce pain, which is also called electrotherapy.
The pain relief comes quickly and effectively because the electrical currents come in direct contact with the skin.
With a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation device, as known as TENS units, the electrotherapy is made more accessible for everyone who needs them.
In fact, since the launch of TENS units, the products have become one of the most used non-pharmacological devices to relieve pain.
Let’s examine the efficiency of TENS in medical practices.
TENS units overview
Different types of TENS
There are three common types of TENS that are often used in medical treatments. They are:
1. Low TENS: has electrical pulses that are of low frequency and high intensity. When applied, the patient feels a sharp, twitching stimulus. The low TENS also induce the brain to release feel-good substances, like an opiate, at a low level.
2. High TENS: has electrical currents that are of high frequency and low intensity.
3. Bursting TENS: has electrical pulses that are short, of high intensity and high frequency. They can provide up to 1 – 5 pulses in a second. This type of TENS combines the benefits of both conventional and electroacupuncture TENS.
What is TENS, and what are its indications?
Generally speaking, TENS work by delivering electrical currents to the surface of the skin, stimulating the nerves existing there. People can use TENS by itself, or adjust it to serve as the core treatment for the management of any type of pain.
Some common categories of pain that TENS can provide soothings including:
- Acute pain
- Chronic Pain
- Malignant pain
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Neuropathic Pain
- Nociceptive Pain.
TENS units are also commonly used to manage the symptoms that associate with pain, such as ileus, vomiting, nausea, incontinence, constipation, nerve damage, healing of wounds and disturbances in psycho-motor.
Why is TENS trusted by so many?
One reason that makes TENS popular with many people is that it is non-invasive, therefore easier to administer. Compared to other drugs or therapies, TENS has fewer side effects and no drug interactions.
Anybody can use TENS by themselves for self-administration, and can up the dose as much as they need because TENS won’t cause overdose or toxicity.
In most patients, the effects of relieving the pain of TENS are immediate. With that said, there are still some patients who have to wait for the pain relief to take effects. In all case, the prolonged effects after treatment are evident.
The benefits of TENS does not end at that. In comparison to other long-term drugs for pain management, a TENS unit is more affordable. It only costs an upfront price of buying the unit and a small running cost for batteries.
TENS units are used by people all around the world. In every country, the device can be bought directly over the counter. The appearance of the Internet helps people in need to buy TENS in just a click. TENS is readily available for those who have the small sum to buy it.
It’s better to consult medical workers before using TENS
However, this also poses the problem that some individual uses TENS to relieve their artificial symptoms of pain and doesn’t address their deeper cause of illness.
If you are going to buy a TENS units, we strongly recommend looking for medical professionals consultants before purchasing the product. That way, the health-care practitioner can access whether a TENS unit is appropriate for your condition, and how to get maximum benefit from TENS therapy.
Where can I find a consultant about the use of TENS?
To ensure that you can use TENS techniques safely and effectively, find a practitioner who is experienced in the practice of TENS to receive assessment, and trials are of utmost importance. “But where do I find an experienced medical practitioner of TENS?”, you may ask.
The health-care specialist should be professionally qualified well enough to supervise your use of TENS. On the other hand, health-care trainers and senior patients who have used the devices for a long time are also capable of the task.
Controversy regarding the use of TENS units
Despite the popularity and evident efficacy of TENS there still lies skepticism about whether the device works well.
Some researchers have tried to determine the actions of TENS on a human body is a mere placebo effect, or if TENS really deliver beneficial effects in pain management.
The experiment they conducted to find out the results involving using two TENS unit, one with batteries and one without batteries to place on the pain area of the patients.
The theory was that if TENS devices only give out placebo response, then the unit without batteries will work as well as the one who doesn’t have batteries in it.
The results come out with the advantages lie with the running TENS unit that has batteries in it. Which proves that the effects of a TENS unit is real, and it can really affect the tissue artificially and under the skin.
In fact, the UK National Health Institute recommends using TENS for short-term pain relief.
In America, The Spine Society officially recommends using TENS for chronic lower back pain.
There are mixing comments for evaluating the clinical effectiveness of TENS, however, the vast majority conforms with its use for back pain management.
Researches proclaim TENS units are effective for pain management
Historically, the TENS units was developed by Dr. C. Norman Shealy. Nowadays, it is used widely by both bio-physical practitioners and conventional medical practitioner to manage pain.
The TENS unit has been sold commercially since the 1970s.
Now, let’s look into scientific trials that have shown how well TENS units can help patients deal better with pain.
First off, let’s look into the mechanisms of pain and how TENS stop the brain from feeling pain.
What is pain?
Pain is a sensory, or emotional experience, that is unpleasant.
It associates with potential or actual tissue damage. Pain evokes human to feel unpleasantness. It makes us “want to do something” in response to the pain sensation.
The treatments of pain all focus on reducing the activity of the system of nociceptive, whether in pharmacology and non-pharmacology. This applies true to the TENS units.
The problem with pain management
Pain is one of the biggest problems in health-care. In fact, more than 30 percent of the general adult population in the world has a problem with chronic pain.
Even in the European countries – the more developed countries of the world, 40% of the population reports that they don’t have adequate means of manage pain. The same number of respondents report that they don’t feel satisfied with the pain management provided by public health care centers.
Even more alarming, 64% of those who were surveyed says that they couldn’t control their pain with only drugs in the past. TENS units stand as a common, reliable and affordable method of relieving pain for these patients.
Pain can be controlled effectively by TENS units
TENS units work by blocking the pain signal so it won’t transmit to the brain. Some researches have shown that the TENS stimulate endorphins productions, which is a hormone that reduce pain in human body.
This electrotherapy device sends pulsed electric currents to the electrodes. Electrodes are attached to the skin, these electric signals, in turn, displace the pain signals from the affected nerves. Thus, the pain messages no longer reach the brain, and you won’t feel pain anymore.
Low back pain and TENS
Physical therapists recommend using TENS for low back pain management
Why do you experience back pain?
Low back pain happens when your back is not in its orginal condition. Most commonly, it comes when your back muscles are in strain for a long period of time.
Minor injuries cause derangement in your lower back. It happens when you lift a heavy object inappropriately. Sudden deceleration also often leads to back pain, the most common examples are in car accidents.
These patients arere often infected with acute pain, and stay in unusual postures because of the spasms coming from he sacrospinal muscles.
In such conditions, the pain is majorly confined to the lower part of the back, and always subside when the person takes a rest.
Another major cause for chronic back pain is the protrusion of lumbar intervertebral discs. The pain, in this case, is recurrent, and affect both the lower back and the leg.
The patients can experience relief immediately with the help of electrotherapy such as TENS, with an anesthetic agent, or with local infiltration.
How useful is TENS for managing lower back pain?
The patients who suffer from low back pain have been soothed by the use of TENS since its launch more than 50 years ago. This type of electrotherapy is considered one of the biggest advances in the medical world.
People from all over the world have reported:
- The relief of spams in the muscle
- The promptness at which the device takes effect
- How well it accelerates the patient’s recovery.
TENS is most useful when installing in the acute phase. The patient should keep using it for 1 – 3 days in this acute period. Instruction for proper posture in mobility and activity also enhance the success probability.
Many doctors also report the usefulness of TENS for chronic low back pain for their patients. The case is especially true for straining pain, and post-traumatic low back pain.
After TENS treatment, 45% of patients are reported without a disability, and another 36% are capable of rejoining the workforce. When the researchers follow up 6 months later, 89% of the respondents report that they still benefit from the use of TENS, more than half of them (57%) need less medication for their pain and 59% experience better-sleeping patterns.
Scientific researches for TENS units effectiveness with other conditions
A lot of researches also support this statement. in 1983, a report showed that TENS relieve upper back pain effectively, which the pain reduction effectiveness higher than 50% in a few days time basis. In two years, one in five patients continues with the daily treatment of TENS.
In another experiment aims to compare the effectiveness of TENS, electroacupuncture and placebo, the patients in treatment with TENS show a higher percentage of pain relief.
Moreover, the patients who were applied with TENS has long-lasting relief, and the soothed period is much longer than when using electroacupuncture. After the experiments, the patients who were trialed with TENS units wanted to continue using them.
TENS use for acute spinal cord injuries
There are significant benefits for acute spinal cord injuries patients when treated with TENS. In this case, experts recommend placing the electrodes on two sides of the abdomens.
It is more ideal to place the electrodes on the lower quadrants of the site of injuries. The operation should be on for three consecutive days until the patient won’t feel any more pain, or until the patient experience bowel movements again.
The extent that TENS work for acute spinal cord injuries is significant. All patients with this unpleasant condition can benefit from treatment with TENS.
TENS use for wrist pain
In 1979, a study on 20 patients with rheumatoid arthritis that leads to severe wrist pain was conducted. After treatment with the highest intensity TENS possible for wrist pain, patients report significant improvement. A 25-minute session produces 50% more pain relief than the group that gets placebo treatment.
TENS units are useful for a multitude of conditions
From this article, we can conclude that the medical use of TENS is good for pain management in varied conditions. These conditions include chronic pain, phantom pain, post-operative pain or obstetric pain. The effectiveness is confirmed by researches, professional medical use and by patients for the last 50 years.
We hope you have more confidence in buying and using TENS unit for pain management with this post.