What is TENS?
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is often used by clinicians treating patients with pain.
A TENS machine is a small battery powered device that is connected to the patient’s skin by two sticky electrode pads. Small electrical impulses are passed between the electrodes, along the area of the body affected by pain. Pain signals are also small electrical impulses that are passed along nerves up the spine and to the brain. What TENS is thought to do is disrupt this pain signalling, relieving pain sensations and relaxing muscles around it.
Pain is an important function of your body to detect danger and damage, but for some patients with chronic pain it can be little help and a significant barrier to everyday life.
The effectiveness of TENS is not definite, as it does not have the same level of supporting research that other pain treatments do. Many clinicians who use it regularly report improvements in reported pain for their patients, but it does not work for everyone. There are large-scale clinical studies currently ongoing so we may have a more conclusive answer in coming years.
TENS is also not a treatment for the source of pain, and will not treat a condition directly, but rather reduce the amount of pain felt.
What conditions is TENS used to treat?
TENS is used to treat pain caused by:
Who can administer TENS treatment?
TENS machines are freely available online or from high street pharmacists. It doesn’t require any medical training to use and is simple enough to figure out from in-the-box instructions.