What is TENS?
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). This is a medical device used for the symptomatic relief and management of chronic (long-term) pain or the treatment of postoperative or posttraumatic pain.
How does TENS work?
TENS is a safe method of treating pain that is non-invasive and doesn’t interfere with medications. The TENS device sends comfortable impulses through the skin that stimulate the nerve(s) in that region. This stimulation will greatly reduce or eliminate the pain signals you feel by reducing the original pain message sent to the brain. It is also believed the TENS unit helps to release natural endorphins which are the body’s own pain chemicals. The TENS unit is a proven and useful device for treating pain for many patients.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators (TENS)
The patient may use a TENS unit at home for pain relief on a long-term basis. TENS units are about the size of a pack of cigarettes and typically cost $250 – $700. All units allow the user to adjust the intensity of the stimulation; some units also allow the user to select high-frequency stimulation (60 – 200 Hz) or low-frequency stimulation (<10 hz).
What is Galvanic stimulation (GS)
Galvanic stimulation (similar to TENS) is most useful in acute injuries associated with major tissue trauma with bleeding or swelling. In contrast to TENS and IFC units, which apply alternating current, galvanic stimulators apply direct current. Direct current creates an electrical field over the treated area that, theoretically, changes blood flow. The positive pad behaves like ice, causing reduced circulation to the area under the pad and reduction in swelling. The negative pad behaves like heat, causing increased circulation, reportedly speeding healing.
TENS users should experiment with various electrode placements. Electrodes can be placed over the painful area, surrounding the painful area, over the nerve supplying the painful area, or even on the opposite side of the body. TENS users need to try the unit for several days with several electrode placements prior to deciding if it will be useful. A home trial for several days to weeks is preferable.
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