Electronic nerve stimulation has long been used as a method of alleviating pain, often as a replacement to painkiller medications, which is why TENS machines are becoming so popular.
TENS refers to Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation. What this basically means is an electrical current is sent through the skin via surface electrodes or pads which attach adhesively to the skin. This electrical current activates the nerve and helps to ease certain types of pain. The TENS machine is small and easily portable, it can be clipped onto a belt or placed in a pocket and used while on the move. The electrical stimulation is easy to tolerate and current research has demonstrated no side-effects for long term use.
So how do TENS machines actually alleviate pain?
All of the pain signals received in the brain are sent via the nerves and spinal cord. By activating certain nerves we can alter the transmission of this pain signal to the brain. There are 2 main ways in which this occurs:
1. When using a high pulse rate on the machine (90-130 Hz) the pain signal to the brain is blocked. This is due to the gate control theory of pain, whereby we only feel pain when the CNS has an open gate for nerve transmission. By distracting the CNS with so many small pain messages so quickly, it does not allow for the slower more intense pain signals to get through.
2. When the machine is on a low pulse rate (2-5 Hz) it stimulates the body to release pain-relieving chemicals known as endorphins.
When would you use a TENS machine?
Generally TENS machines are used by people to treat any musculoskeletal pain that has become a chronic (long-term) issue. Often these machines are also used during labour, particularly prior to the pregnant woman getting to the hospital. Other conditions with which a person may opt to use a TENS machine include: period pain, sports injury and migraines. Due to their simplistic design, anyone can use a TENS machine, it does not need to be set up or put on by a health professional, however we do recommend seeking the advice of a health professional if you are unsure of which setting best suits your needs.
Who should NOT use a TENS machine?
If you fit into any of the following categories we do not advise use of TENS machines:
- People experiencing pain where the cause is undiagnosed
- Those who use a pacemaker
- If you are pregnant (unless you have been advised by a medical proffessional, or it is during labour)
- If you suffer from epilepsy
- If you have heart disease we advise you speak to your doctor prior to using a TENS machine
If you are looking to buy a TENS machine now we reccommend our Metron ProTENS machine.