TENS Machine Pain Relief & Rehabilitation

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a common treatment used by practitioners to assist with reducing pain as well as facilitating muscle rehabilitation via re-education. A TENS machine is an electronic device that uses surface electrodes on the skin. These pads are connected to the TENS machine via cords. The user or treating therapist can manipulate settings to elicit a desired treatment effect and deliver a pulsed electrical stimulus which penetrates the skin to stimulate the sensory (sensation) and/or motor (muscle) nerves. By stimulating these nerves a TENS machine can help reduce or eliminate pain by interrupting the signals which are sent to the brain.

TENS machine

How Does Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Work?

Once the electrode surface pads have been appropriately positioned and the desired settings have been selected the user will notice a sensation which is described as “buzzing” “tingling” or “pins and needles” in the area. The user or practitioner can amplify this sensation depending upon the frequency and intensity used. By increasing the stimulus, the client will note an involuntary type of muscle contraction which can assist with muscle re-education and therefore rehabilitation from muscular and soft tissue conditions. TENS machines are most commonly used in cases of chronic pain relief. It’s recognized that TENS machines work in two manners:

  • Sensory level stimulation: As discussed, the gate control theory of pain development means that the electrical stimulus provided by the TENS machine interferes with the “neural gate” which pain messages travel to and from the brain though.
  • Motor level stimulation: Practitioners will most commonly utilize motor level stimulation settings to assist with muscle re-education or improving muscle activation patterns.

Should You Consider Using A TENS Machine?

TENS machines are commonly used in the treatment of conditions such as (but not limited to):

Are TENS Machines Appropriate For Everyone?

There are a variety of contraindications to using a TENS machine which are included below:

  • Individuals who have a pacemaker
  • Individuals who have known allergic reactions to particular tapes, gels or electrodes
  • Individuals who have open cuts or wounds
  • Individuals who suffer from known skin allergies such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Individuals should not place the TENS machine electrodes over epiphyseal growth regions in children
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