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 a TENS machine 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.
The electrical stimulation can be adjusted for intensity, frequency or intensity, so your physiotherapist can tailor the treatment specifically to your needs.
Are TENS machines 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 I use my TENS machine?
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.
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All the best in your health journey,