9 Questions People Usually Ask Us About TENS, And How It Actually Works

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What is TENS?
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It’s a type of therapy physiotherapists use to aid in pain relief.
The base machine can vary, but usually it is about the same size of an old school palm pilot. (For any youngins who don’t know what that is, it’s a bit wider than an iPhone 6). This base connects to pads or discs called electrodes, which is the part you place on your skin. The electrodes may or may not be wireless.
These electrodes will be placed on an area of pain, or a pressure point. Once the device is turned on, electric impulses or stimulation is sent into the nerves of that particular area.
How Does it Work?
Using an electrical impulse, a TENS machine may block pain pathways in your central nervous system. This is a non-invasive technique is used to reduce pain, and increase circulation to the treated area. It also promotes the production of your endorphins, which are your body’s natural pain reducers.
Using an electrical impulse, a TENS machine may block pain pathways in your central nervous system. This is a non-invasive technique is used to reduce pain, and increase circulation to the treated area. It also promotes the production of your endorphins, which are your body’s natural pain reducers.
The electrical stimulation can be adjusted for intensity, frequency or intensity, so your physiotherapist can tailor the treatment specifically to your needs.
Is it Safe?
TENS machines are non-invasive, drug-free, and non-addictive. The machine is ultimately controlled by the physiotherapist and client at all times, and is approved by Health Canada and the FDA.
When Should TENS be Used?
A TENS machine can be found to help a variety of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, such as nerve pain, muscle pain, osteoarthritis, sports injuries, menstrual pain, back pain, migraines and more.
Why Use TENS machine for labour (pregnancies)?
Just as each pregnancy is different, the effects of a TENS machine can differ from one woman to another during labour. The electrodes are placed on the mother’s lower back, and the electric stimulations are controlled throughout the contractions.
It is not confirmed whether TENS is used commonly for labour because of the amount of pain that is reduced, or due to the increased feeling of control felt during the process.
Where Can I Buy a TENS machine?
A TENS machine can be purchased through several avenues. On Amazon, you can find hundreds of options ranging anywhere from $40 to $130 and beyond. It is very important to speak to your physiotherapist about using these devices at home, and to always read and follow the instructions of your device.
A TENS unit can also be purchased directly through your doctor or specialist, but can cost upwards of $300 depending on the unit. As the machines are so popular now, they can usually be found at pharmacies, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy and more.
Can TENS cause headaches?
TENS units are commonly used to provide headache and migraine relief. However, with overuse or misuse, a TENS treatment may cause muscle twitches and soreness. If any pain or irritation occurs, notify your physiotherapist so they can adjust the machine with you. If self-administering this treatment at home and a side effect occurs, lower the intensity of the unit or stop treatment.
Still have questions? No worries. Give us a call at 519-895-2020 or send us a message! We would be happy to help.
All the best in your health journey,
Strive Physiotherapy & Performance.

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MIKE MAJOR, PT

BSc Kinesiology, University of Waterloo MSc PT, McMaster University

Physiotherapist

Born in Lahr, Germany

Mike treats people of all activity levels and ages from weekend warriors to elite athletes. He has mentored physiotherapists across Ontario as well as worked on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Physiotherapy Association. Recently, Mike represented physiotherapists within the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games Medical Services Expert Provider Group. Mike has also had the opportunity to work side by side with orthopaedic surgeons, allowing him to work with many people following complex and traumatic injuries. Mike also consults over 1,000 physiotherapy cases nationally. This has given him a lot of insight into what Physiotherapy looks like across Canada.    

Prior to becoming a physiotherapist, Mike served in the reserves for 9 years as a member of the Artillery in the Canadian Armed Forces. He also enjoys coaching local athletes to help improve their performance through MeFit, a local not-for-profit organization.

What Really Matters...

Cats or dogs?

Dogs.

Worst idea you've ever had?

Skiing behind a car.

Worst fad you've ever participated in?

Rat Tail

Do you have any kids?

A baby named Maverick.

Last book you read?

Together is Better: A little Book of Inspiration

Most useless talent you have?

Sewing

 

What 3 things are you bringing with you, stranded on a desert island?

A multitool, My Wife, and our baby

Biggest Pet Peeve?

A multitool, My Wife, and our baby

In your high school yearbook, you won/would have won...?

Most likely to get stuff done

What song would play every time you enter a room?

Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

 

“It’s not the size of dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”