WILL “TENS “CURE MY PAIN?
TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is not a “cure-all”. 80% or so of people are helped by TENS and experience a reduction in pain rather than a cure. This reduction in pain will provide you with an opportunity to gradually increase what you do.
HOW DO I FEEL PAIN?
The sensory part of pain involves a series of impulses being carried along the nerve fibres in the limbs and body. The nerve fibres then enter the spinal cord and communicate with a further group of nerves which carry the pain signals up to the brain where the signal is converted into the sensation of pain.
CAN THE PAIN BE REDUCED?
Yes, if the pain signal can be slowed or reduced then the pain felt would also be reduced.
HOW WILL THE TENS REDUCE MY PAIN?
When someone accidentally knocks their elbow, they instinctively rub it. This rubbing action excites the larger nerve fibres which in turn, have an effect on the transmission of signals from the smaller “pain-carrying” nerves. Luckily, your brain can only interpret a limited amount of information. If the "rubbing" sensations outnumber the painful "bump" sensations, the brain will interpret the sensations as being from the pain-free rubbing source rather than the painful bump. In other words, the rubbing sensations have 'bombarded the gate', so painful messages cannot get through.
TENS works in a very similar way in as much as it electrically stimulates the thicker nerves. This stimulation in turn “blocks” some of the pain.
IS THIS THE ONLY WAY THAT TENS CAN REDUCE MY PAIN?
No. The TENS unit can also be adjusted to stimulate the body to produce its own pain-killing chemicals, endorphins. Again, this is not a cure, but pain management.
WHERE DO I PUT THE ELECTRODES?
Electrode placement is important to obtain the best results from the TENS machine. Exact location will depend on where your pain is felt. The most important aspect is to position them so that the current passes through the painful area, or along the nerves leading from the pain, or over acupuncture points.
DOES MY SKIN NEED ANY SPECIAL CARE WHEN I USE TENS?
You must wash the area of skin where the electrodes go at least once a day with soap and water, rinse and dry well. Using body lotions or creams where the electrodes go will prevent them from sticking to your skin. They will also shorten the life of the electrodes.
DO THE ELECTRODES NEED ANY SPECIAL CARE?
Yes. When not in use, stick them back onto the plastic film supplied with the electrodes. Do not stick the electrodes face to face as this will destroy them. If the electrodes lose some of their “stickiness”, try moistening the surface with a few drops of water.
HOW LONG DO I USE MY TENS FOR EACH DAY?
There is no specific time limit for using a TENS machine, but research studies have shown that at least 30-60 minutes is needed for TENS treatment to be effective. It may be up to 20 minutes before you experience any reduction in pain. When you switch the machine off, it may be some time before your pain returns to its former intensity. This is called “carry over”.
TENS treatment benefits most people but you have to give it a chance to work by ensuring an adequate trial i.e. treatment once or twice daily, or more, for at least 2-3 weeks.
SHOULD I REST WHEN I’M USING MY TENS?
No. Try gently exercising the painful area while you are using your TENS. The more that you move, the more that pain will be inhibited. You should aim to gradually increase your present level of activity.
WHAT PRECAUTIONS DO I NEED TO TAKE WITH TENS USE?
- TENS UNITS SHOULD NOT BE USED BY PERSONS WITH HEART PACEMAKERS OR SERIOUS HEART RHYTHM PROBLEMS. People with heart disease or epilepsy should be evaluated by a doctor first before using a unit.
- TENS should not be used by pregnant women before 36 weeks without medical advice, or at any time on the abdomen during pregnancy.
- TENS should not be placed on the head, front or side of neck, over the heart or on broken and inflamed skin.
- TENS electrodes should not be applied internally or to areas of skin where normal sensation is absent.
- TENS equipment should not be used while bathing, showering or swimming.
- TENS machines should not be used while operating vehicles or potentially hazardous equipment.
- TENS equipment poses a danger to children and should be kept out of their reach.
- Electronic monitoring equipment can be affected by TENS/NMS use.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
No. There are no known side effects from TENS use, and long term stimulation is not harmful.