T.E.N.S – The Alternative To Pain Killers

Electrical muscle stimulation is used successfully both in medical rehabilitation and as a complement to athletic training on all levels.

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which sounds much scarier than it actually is.

Transcutaneous means “through the skin”. In simple terms, a TENS unit stimulates your nerves via an electrical current through your skin.

The TENS unit is a small battery operated box which produces pain relieving small electrical pulses, via electrodes placed on the skin.

When the TENS unit is turned on, it delivers a light current through the electrodes to the skin and tissues just beneath it. You will feel a tingling or buzzing feeling on your skin where the electrodes are placed.

TENS machines are thought to affect the way pain signals are sent to the brain. Pain signals reach the brain via nerves and the spinal cord. If pain signals can be blocked by the tiny electrical shocks from the TENS machine, then the brain will receive fewer signals from the source of the pain.


Pain Gating

A possible explanation of TENS pain relief mechanism could be found in Gate Control Theory. It is assumed that a special nerve mechanism that acts as a “gate” exists in the spinal cord.

When we feel pain, such as when we touch a hot stove, sensory receptors in our skin send a message via nerve fibres (A-delta fibres and C fibres) to the spinal cord and brainstem and then onto the brain where the sensation of pain is registered, the information is processed and the pain is perceived.

The gate control theory is based on the fact that when the larger A – beta nerve fibres (that sense touch, heat, cold and pressure) are stimulated, they are capable of sending information about pressure and touch more rapidly, shutting “the gate” and overriding the smaller A – delta and C nerve fibres that sense the sharp, burning or aching pains.

TENS machines are thought to close “the gate”. In effect, the brain is busy dealing with the messages it receives quickly from the TENS machine, rather than the more painful pain signals that the body is receiving from elsewhere.


Endorphin Release

Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine.

In contrast to the opiate drugs, however, activation of the opiate receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.

Endorphins not only relieve pain but bring about a temporary sense of well-being.

Depending on the frequency the unit delivers TENS is also thought to trigger the release of endorphins – the body’s own natural painkilling substances.


What Conditions Does It Help?

TENS is used by people to treat a variety of acute and chronic pain conditions:

  • low back pain
  • sciatica
  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • tennis elbow
  • bursitis
  • neck pain
  • headaches
  • knee pain,
  • period pain
  • neuropathic pain (pain caused by nerve or spinal cord damage, such as phantom limb pain (amputation) and multiple sclerosis pain)
  • cancer pain
  • childbirth (labour pain)
  • post-operative pain


TENS unit advantages:

  • Simple and easy to use drug free method of pain relief.
  • It won’t interact with your other medications
  • TENS appears to be free of any side effects except for occasional irritation where the electrodes are applied to the skin.
  • Once your TENS unit is programmed, it is easy to apply, and can be worn during most activities.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS Units) is a highly effective treatment for chronic and acute pain. It is used extensively and recommended by sports coaches, physiotherapy, pain clinics, doctors and other medical practitioners. A TENS unit will relieve pain and you should notice immediate results.


Neurotrac 3 Digital Tens Unit

The Neurotrac TENS machine is a light weight, advanced digital, dual channel unit featuring 11 pre-set & 3 custom programmes.

The 12 pre-set programmes make it easy to use. Simply place the electrode pads on your body, turn it on and press the prog button to change programmes, experimenting to see which one provides the best pain relief.

As it is a dual channel unit you have two separate up/down controls enabling you to alter the intensity of each set of electrodes. You can choose to use all four electrodes for example on your lower back or you can just use two for example around your elbow where you have less physical area.


You should NOT use TENS:

• If you have a pacemaker fitted or you have a severe heart disorder

• If you have epilepsy and you are using the machine alone

• If you are in the first trimester of pregnancy (at least not around the abdomen)

• Over the front of your neck or over your face

• Over an area of broken skin

• If you have a cochlear implant hearing device


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