If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll be used to smartphones, tablets and other computer-type gadgets. However you might not be aware of what the product in the image below is. I’m sure that most people – if asked would probably guess that it’s an MP3 player. While it might look a bit like an iPod and other MP3 players, it is in fact a TENS machine.
A lot of readers may not have heard of a TENS machine before – and that’s not surprising. Unless you’ve experienced persistent pain or had your chiropractor use one on you, the likelihood is that you’ll have never come across this type of little device before. For those who don’t know anything about TENS machines we’re going to take a quick look at exactly what they are, how they work and whether they can potentially be of any use to you.
What does TENS stand for?
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. TENS therapy is the use of low voltage electrical current as a pain management tool. To carry out the therapy, one requires a TENS machine.
What is a TENS machine?
A TENS machine is usually a portable battery powered electrical device, with a set of wires and sticky pads (known as electrodes).
How does a TENS machine work?
The user (or whoever is administering the session) plugs the wires into the device and then attaches the electrodes to the end of the wires. The electrodes are then placed on the area that is in pain or close by. Once everything is in the right place the machine can be turned on, then the program and intensity levels can be selected. The TENS machine will usually have timed programs and automatically stop once it has gone through a program cycle. Obviously it goes without saying that people should always read the instruction manual comprehensively before starting to use these pieces of equipment. Different makes and models may have specific recommendations and particular ways to operate them.
Why does it reduce the feeling of pain?
The machine sends gentle low voltage electrical impulses to the body (through the wires and electrodes). These impulses stimulate the nerves and in turn this releases the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins. This reduces the sensation of pain.
Will a TENS machine help with my back pain?
This is the single most common reason people use the devices. A TENS machine can help with pain in the back, along with other chronic and acute complaints.
Is it safe to send electricity to my body?
TENS has been used for more than 30 years now. In all of this time there haven’t been any long-term or short-term health risks attributed with the therapy. This is backed up by the fact that any good quality TENS machine will come with FDA clearance and approval.
Can I just go out and buy a TENS machine?
In theory you can. Many TENS machines can now be bought over the counter (OTC), without a prescription. However, it is recommended that anybody who is thinking about buying one of these devices should speak to their doctor first. There are a very small number of exceptions, people who shouldn’t use a TENS machine. This is why it is important to check before using one for the first time.
If you do decide to purchase a TENS machine you will find that there are literally hundreds of these devices on the market. Varying in size, weight, features, etc… and of course, price! It makes sense to read up first and familiarize yourself a bit more with TENS machines.