What is a TENS unit?
A TENS unit is a device normally used in relieving and managing chronic pain in patients. It is the most popular type of electrotherapy used across the world.
TENS works through the administration of mild electrical shocks on the body’s affected area with the help of adhesive pads known as electrodes. The electrodes are normally placed on the skin of the patient and then linked to the device.
How do TENS relieve pain?
TENS relieves pain by stimulating the body’s nerves using electric shocks. The stimulation helps in relieving pain in two major ways. The first one is through the production of endorphins and the second one is through pain gating.
However, the method used depends on the condition of the patient. It is important to consult a medical specialist so that the pain-relieving method being used acts effectively. It is also important to understand that the process might take awhile before yielding the desired results.
Endorphins are among the several brain chemicals or that transmit or deliver messages between cells. Stimulating the nerves in the body helps in activating and releasing endorphins. The signals help our bodies to operate in a normal manner and change the way we perceive the environment around us.
Endorphins are usually released when the body experiences stress or pain. When the brain chemicals are released, they have the ability to minimize the pain and make us happier. They can also enhance your body’s immune response.
Pain medication is the common way used when it comes to releasing endorphins. But the good thing with TENS is that it can serve the same purpose but without posing the risk of addiction. That’s the reason why most patients prefer it compared to traditional medications.
In order to experience pain plus other sensations, the nerve fibers in our bodies send sensory signals directly to the spinal cord that later passes the signals to the brain for you to be able to feel any pain.
Bigger fibers of the nerves transmit signals when you feel normal pressure or touch whereas small nerve fibers transmit signals when a person is injured.
The ability of a person to experience pain is based on how the brain will receive and decode the signal into either a feeling of comfort or discomfort.
Pain gating was introduced by Ronald Melzack in the 1960s. The theory is of the view that before the brain can receive the pain signal, a pain gate stops the signal after passing over the brain. The pain can be severe when the signal is transmitted to the brain in some injuries.
As such, activating large fibers with usual sensations can help stop the pain signals transmitted by the small nerves and thus reduce the pain. That’s why people usually shake or rub the injured part of the body – making TENS a great option.
TENS units are used in activating the large nerves by causing a massaging or tingling sensation within an injured area. This process inhibits pain signals and reduces the way we perceive pain for a certain period.
How long does the pain relief last?
Pain relief can last for up to 24 hours after treatment. The pain relief can also be as brief as five minutes and it is difficult to explain the variations. However, some studies suggest that pain relief is based on the condition of the patient.
Additionally, frequent usage of TENS may result in longer relief periods. But it can also make a person build some form of resistance to the treatment in the long run.