TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. The TENS machines are devices that use electric current to stimulate nerves. The devices are used for therapy to treat various kinds of pains. The machine works by providing pulses that goes across the surface of the skin and reaches the nerve stands and relaxes them. The whole machine comprises of a TENS unit which is battery operated. There are electrodes that carry electric current from the unit to the skin. There are TENS machine pads that are attached to the surface of the skin and that allow the electric pulses to pass into the skin easily. The controller part comes handy with which you can control the strength and frequency of the pulses.
Why to use TENS machines?
It is believed that there is a gate at the central nervous system that causes the pain. When the gate is opened we feel the pain and when closed the pain is stopped. TENS machines send electric impulses at a pulse rate of 90-130 Hz to the non-pain carrying nerves and close the gate. The brain receives the fast messages from the TENS machines rather than listening to slower pain signals and the pain is reduced temporarily. At low pulse rate of 2-5 Hz, the machines stimulate the body to produce pain-easing chemicals similar to morphine known as endorphins and blocks the pain signals.
Effective medical uses of the TENS machines:
The machines are used to give treatment in various kinds of pain. These are commonly used to treat bones, muscles and joint problems caused due to some ailment. Osteoarthritis can be treated using the machine. Problems like lower back pain, neck pain, tendinits, and cancer pain can be reduced using the machine
- Labor pain
The TENS machines can be wonderful to ease pain caused during labor. Right from the beginning of regular contractions, you can start with lower setting and increase the pulses when contractions are at peak. This will reduce the back pain during the labor.
Low impulse TENS can be used extensively in diagnosis and treatment of various non-odontogenic orofacial pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
Placing the electrode pads for pain relief
TENS machine pads have firm gel that sticks the skin surface and allows the electric pulses to pass into the skin. The pads when placed at the right area can reduce the pain quite fast. Finding the place of pain and putting the pads there cannot be difficult. If you still have no idea where to place the pads, you should read the guidelines given with the unit. It is advisable to not to place the pads on the wet area or over open cuts.
- When the pain is in a small area, like at the lower back, you can place the pads on the both side of the pain.
- When the pain is at a great distance across the body like starting from back to thigh, it is appropriate to place the electrodes on a vertical line from the starting point to end point.
- If the pain is wide like between shoulders on the back, you can relive the pain by placing the pads on the left and right side of the spine.
If the area of the pain is difficult to reach or located at odd place, you can put the pads on the both side of the pain. However, while operating the TENS machine, it must be remembered that it is not possible to place the electrodes at joint as it may get loose. Placing the pads on the muscles outside where the joint bends can be a good idea. You can place the pads along the horizontal alignment parallel to each other.