How Does Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) work?

Before we explain the way that TENS works and its beneficial effects on the human body, first let’s define what it is.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or shortly known as TENS is another type of electrotherapy used as a part of the physical therapy by physical therapists all around the world. It is represented as a therapeutic method used to relieve pain through stimulation of the sensory nerve endings in the skin. There are several types of TENS which are being used as a part of the electrotherapy. However, the most commonly used type is the Conventional TENS which has a good analgesic effect.

How is TENS applied?

It is usually applied at the hospital or at a proper rehabilitation center by a trained physical therapist. An experienced physiatrist will consult you about the expected beneficial effects as well as the potential side effects from its use. For most people, TENS is a safe method of treatment without any side effects. It is applied by using a small, battery – portable machine which has electrodes connected to it by wires. These electrodes are attached to the area which is treated. Small electrical pulses are transmitted from the machine to the treated area through the electrodes. At the beginning the therapist may probably start using a small dose, to let the skin and the body get used to the idea of electrical shock. Later the therapist will increase the dose. However, the dose can be increased only to a level where you do not feel any pain. If you start feeling any pain, the dose must be decreased. Also, you could be trained how to apply TENS at home using your own TENS machine. However, you must be cautious when it comes to applying TENS. The electrodes must not be attached near an open wound, on an area around the neck, mouth, or eyes, wet areas, numb areas or near varicose veins.

What are the indications and contraindications for TENS?

For every treatment option there are certain indications – which are conditions where the treatment option is recommended, and certain contraindications – which are conditions where the treatment option is strongly not recommended to be used.
Indications for the use of this therapy are – arthritis, period pain, neck pain, knee pain, back pain, and various sports injuries. Whereas, contraindications for it are – presence of a pacemaker, the presence of metal implants below the area which is being treated, hyperesthesia or anesthesia, neoplasms, bleeding, open wounds, infections, fever and etc.

 

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