There is a growing industry for pain management. Solutions for pain relief include pharmaceuticals, physical therapy, surgical and devices such as infrared, ultrasound and TENS therapy. There are pain management clinics and offices that are more accessible today. The demand is for home devices that are easy to operate and can be used on demand.
The TENS unit is a portable battery powered device used for pain relief of muscular and nerve injury. The most frequently affected parts of the body are injuries to the neck and back which can lead to chronic pain. A common cause of pain is either trauma or continuous strain from accidents and sports injuries.
HOW DOES THE TENS UNIT WORK?
The hand held unit has two electrodes that are connected to the skin. The unit sends low voltage stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. The stimulating pulses help to prevent/block pain signals from reaching the brain. The TENS device also helps to stimulate the body’s production of Endorphins which is the body’s natural pain killers.
TYPES OF TENS UNITS
There are a variety of TENS units available on the market. It is best to check with your physical therapist or doctor who will advise you on which one best suits your need. Be sure the unit you are considering has been cleared by the FDA as a class 11 medical device.
TENS units are rated based on:
- User friendliness
- Size, weight and portability
- Type of battery (rechargeable lithium or standard battery)
- Types and numbers of programs
- Dual channel use with 2 or 4 pads
- Intensity levels
- Cost and warranty of the unit
HEALTH CONDITIONS WHICH COULD BENEFIT FROM TENS THERAPY
A range of nerve, muscle and skeletal conditions can cause acute and chronic pain. Pain relief for these ailments should include TENS therapy. Some of these ailments include:
- Trauma with resulting muscle strain, muscle spasm, torn ligaments, tendons or fractures
- Sports injuries: overuse of muscles with resulting muscle injury. This is common in contact sports, athletics and dancing
- Slipped disc, disc herniation
- Age-related osteoarthritis (arthritis) and osteoporosis
- Plantar fasciitis
- Neuropathy (diabetes-related neuropathy, sciatica etc.)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Scoliosis: abnormal curvature of the spine which is usually a birth defect
- Pain associated with pregnancy (pre-natal, labor and post-natal)
A WORD OF CAUTION
It is important to note that any muscular pain which is persistent and does not resolve with rest, ice compress and analgesics should be investigated. Diagnostic studies such as x-rays, CT scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI, are used to confirm the diagnosis. Once serious causes have been eliminated from the diagnosis, TENS therapy can be used to ease the pain and discomfort.
When conservative treatments fail to alleviate the pain, medication, a facet joint injection or surgery may be options to explore. For pain relief and inflammation, the non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs are very effective (NSAID). Some popular over the counter generic drugs are ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin. Drug therapy can be continued and may even be reduced while using TENS therapy. Consult with the physical therapist and doctors who will advise you on the combination therapy.