Electrodes are placed on the skin at the site of the pain. Low-voltage
electrical impulses pass through the skin to the nerves, stimulating
TENS is used to treat pain caused by a variety of conditions. It
is used to treat acute or chronic pain, sometimes for acute post-surgical
pain. Lower back pain and pain from arthritis may be the most common
reasons for using TENS.
Portable TENS Units: A TENS unit small enough
to attach to a belt and can be worn all day. It is battery powered.
It can be turned on and off. There is usually a continuous mode,
burst mode and timer. There are two electrodes, or four electrodes
in units with two channels. Some people use the unit for brief sessions
only, as the pain relief sometimes last for hours. Others only have
pain relief while the unit is on. For some people it is ineffective.
What is the Success Rate?
Some studies have found that Tens Units are effective in reducing
pain for between 10 and 90 percent of people suffering from mild-moderate
pain. Just as many studies have found them no more effective than
placebo. Success rate is higher when a specialist (physician or
physical therapist) with expertise in the use of TENS educates the
patient in the proper use of the unit.
A one-month trial period is usually recommended to rate its effectiveness.
There may be some trial and error involved – should the stimulation
be intermittent or continuous; what are the optimal settings for
the pulse rate and width; what sites should the electrodes be placed
on to achieve maximum pain relief. A tens unit should be used under
the supervision of a physician
or physical therapist.
*TENS does not produce the same results in different patients,
even those with the same condition. TENS is often used in combination
with other treatments, as part of a comprehensive pain management
*A TENS unit may interfere with pacemakers.
to Complementary Treatments
Back to the Top ^
Back Pain Home Page