WHAT IS TENS?


TENS can stimulate the sensory nerves differently, activating different natural pain relief mechanisms within the body. The two primary pain relief mechanisms are the Pain Gate Mechanism and the Endogenous Opioid System.

The Pain Gate Mechanism, also known as the Gate Control Theory, uses a high frequency stimulation to activate specific sensory fibers. When these fibers are stimulated it releases a non-painful stimulus that closes the "gate" that send the pain signals to the brain1.

The alternative method is using a low frequency TENS program to target the Endogenous Opioid System. Through this system you are stimulating different sensory fibers that produce an opioid effect, which helps to provide pain relief and reduces the pain signals sent to the brain2.

WHAT IS A TENS MACHINE?

A TENS device comes in different forms. Sometimes these are large units intended for your health care clinic, and other times they come as over the counter, hand held devices. All over the counter devices are considered class II medical devices. However not all devices are created equally, so it is still important to research the device you are purchasing. The difference can be found in the program offerings, as well as the waveforms used to deliver the stimulus body.

CARE OF ELECTRODES

Life of an electrode can vary greatly due to multiple variables. Things that can affect the life of an electrode include if you have oily skin, are placing the electrodes on a hairy surface, and if you store the electrodes in a warm humid area. When the electrodes have dry sections and are not adhering completely to the skin, or if you are feeling discomfort at the pad surface then it is time to replace them. Before use of the device, always check the quality of your electrodes. If you are using the device multiple times a day, remove the adhesive pads between treatments to allow the skin to breath.

SIDE EFFECTS OF TENS?

There are no known long term side effects for the proper use of a TENS machine. It is important to note that some people do find that if they turn the intensity too high and create a muscle twitch this can cause an unpleasant sensation. If you find that you are sore in the area after using a TENS machine you may need to take a break for a day before using again and make sure not to turn the intensity too high. Before use of the device, always check the quality of your electrodes. If you are using the device multiple times a day, remove the adhesive pads between treatments to allow the skin to breath.

1. Hadjistavropoulos, T; Craig, K. Pain: Psychological Perspectives. New York; London. Psychology Press, 2004.

2. Han JS, Chen XH, Sun SL, Xu XJ, Yuan Y, Yan SC, Hao JX, Terenius L. Effect of low- and high-frequency TENS on Metenkephalin-Arg-Phe and dynorphin A immunoreactivity in human lumbar CSF. Pain 1991; 47: 295-298.

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