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What is TENS Therapy?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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As a pain management tool or a muscle relaxant, TENS Therapy, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Therapy, uses mild electrical impulses as an alternative to drugs. TENS Therapy is approved by the FDA, is covered by many insurance carriers, and has been prescribed by doctors as a safe, reliable pain management system for decades.

TENS Therapy gently stimulates nerves and blocks pain signals before they can be received by the brain. It is especially popular in elderly patients, who may be severely affected by side effects from strong prescription medications; however, it may be used by anyone suffering from pain. TENS Therapy is generally used to relieve back pain, but many types and causes of pain may benefit from it, including arthritis.

Some people are a bit apprehensive about receiving TENS Therapy. The sensation produced by the TENS machine is relaxing rather than painful and the current used for stimulation is very low. In the event that the machine is turned up too high, the patient may experience minor discomfort in the form of tensing muscles. The sensation is comparable to receiving too much pressure during a massage. If this occurs, the setting can be adjusted quickly and easily.

Since the intensity of the impulses rises and falls, a patient may adjust to it after a few cycles if he or she is able to relax. If not, the patient should certainly inform the therapist and ask for a lower setting. The therapist should always ensure that the proper setting has been achieved and is comfortable for the patient, before leaving the room. A good therapist will come back intermittently to check on the patient and make sure the setting is still comfortable.

For those that acquire a TENS machine for personal use, the setting should be determined by the doctor. The machine must only be used as prescribed. If you suffer from chronic pain, but prefer to treat it without the use of drugs, ask your doctor if TENS Therapy is right for you.

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Discussion Comments
By anon153174 — On Feb 16, 2011

I worked my entire career on oil and gas platforms rigs and offshore job is quite demanding during 1996 i had a shut down on abu dhabi offshore platform when i walked 80 to 100 per day. When i came back to coast by chopper means abu dhabi uae my both feet were swollen. I used spray, but the swelling doubled and red rashes on my skin. I consulted many doctors from 2001 to 2005 several x rays and blood test were carried out but no one could find "why" or lesh in arabic.

i knew the power of electric shock when i was in a wheel chair and crutches i broke one eliminator or the charger used secondary as primary made probes from plug nodes with cotton and water spray (moisturize)i took three battery cells joined by masking tape connected then like a guitar i gave pulses to the cell.

When I was in a wheelchair and on crutches for two weeks and several ayurvedic medicines and nothing worked without or partially knowing i used the unknown procedure (i am not calling it as therapy). i purchased three machines in india but you would request every person to get acquainted and afraid if the so called "shock " treatment thanks to michael faraday. i hope someone in the world will benefit about tens therapy. it is the greatest for such conditions.

By raeofhope — On Feb 06, 2009

I have a TENS unit. My question is about positive versus negative placement. Would I place a positive on one side at the buttocks for instance and then the negative on the same side on the lumbar region? In other words, would it be best to crisscross the positive and negative instead of having the negatives both on one side.

By anon16307 — On Aug 03, 2008

Give me information about TENS therapy on facial palsy?

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