What is a Tens Unit?
TENS stands for Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS unit is predominately used for nerve related pain conditions. This device can be used on both acute pain and chronic pain. TENS unit lessens pain by sending painless electrical impulses through electrodes (sticky patches) placed on the skin. The electrical signals travel from the TENS unit through wires to the electrodes. TENS unit is a great option for body pain treatment.
The signal then passes to the nerves under the skin. These nerves take messages to the brain about what they feel, such as touch, warmth, pressure, and pain. Therefore, TENS signals can replace the message of pain on these nerves with a tingling sensation. This changes the patient’s impression of the pain.
Also, TENS signals may increase the amount of endorphins (end-or-fins) in your body. Endorphins are a pain-relieving chemical made naturally by your body.
How does a TENS unit work?
TENS units have various adjustable settings to control intensity of stimulation by controlling the voltage. Electrodes are set at specific areas on a patient’s body depending on the physical location of the patient’s body. Current travels through electrodes and into the skin stimulating specific nerve pathways to produce a pleasant sensation that reduces the perception of pain. When used as directed, a TENS unit is a safe, noninvasive and drug-free method of pain management.
The most advanced explanation of how a TENS successfully decreases or eliminates pain is called The Gate Control Theory. This theory suggests that there’s a neural mechanism in the spinal cord that acts as a kind of “gate.” Which leads to the gate shutting or opening the flow of signals from the periphery to the brain. Whether the gate is closed, open, or partially closed depends on what signal it receives from the brain to change the perception of pain in the patient’s body. Frequencies interfere with the transmission of pain signals at the spinal cord level, and help block their transmission to the brain.