Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a treatment that may help to reduce pain. Find out what TENS is, where and how to have TENS treatments, and how it might help you.
Intro to TENS
TENS uses electrical stimulation of nerves to block the pain signals to the brain. Stimulating the nerves may also help the body produce natural painkillers called endorphins.
A TENS unit is a small battery-operated device that can be hooked to a belt. Two electrodes carry a low-level, painless electric current from the TENS machine to the skin. This produces a slight tingling sensation. A TENS session usually lasts 30-60 minutes. It can be repeated as needed to ease pain.
Is TENS for You?
There is some controversy about the effectiveness of TENS in the treatment of chronic pain. TENS appears to be most effective for nerve pain. And several studies have confirmed its effectiveness for postoperative pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic musculoskeletal pain. Some also use it for headaches.
Ask your doctor whether TENS might be effective for your type of pain. If so, your doctor may be able to refer you to a physical therapist or other medical practitioner who uses TENS. Or your doctor may write a prescription for a portable TENS unit you can use at home.