What Is A TENS Unit? Everything You Ever Wanted to Know!

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what-does-a-tens-unit-doYou’ve heard about it, but exactly what is a TENS Unit? The simple answer is that it is a remote control sized device that uses a low-voltage electrical current to fight pain. TENS actually stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and as the term suggests, nerves are stimulated by the low-voltage current.

Before we get into a detailed explanation on what TENS therapy is, let’s look at the history of this form of treatment.

The History of TENS

The use of electricity to reduce the effects of pain is nothing new. In fact, as far back as 2500BC there are records of this form of therapy being practiced. Stone carvings in the Egyptian Fifth Dynasty show even more evidence. An ‘electric’ fish is depicted as providing relief when used to treat pain.

The Romans Actually Stood On Electric Fish!

Even Romans were known to stand on fish that were electrified to reduce pain. Emperor Claudius’ physician Sribonious Largus was credited with that very discovery. Somehow he managed to use the electrical energy coming from the fish to treat a variety of pain issues ranging from headaches to gout.

“First TENS Unit Was Created In The Nineteenth Century”

The very first TENS unit was created in the nineteenth century. These ‘machines’ used static electricity as the source of energy which was used on patients suffering from headaches, migraines and several other kinds pain related ailments.

Don’t treat yourself with an electric fish, choose one of our top 10 best TENS units for home use:)

The Popularity Of TENS Units Today…

Believe it or not, these devices were extremely popular and continued to be used until pain killers in pill and capsule form replaced them. But what does TENS stand for? TENS Unit therapy resurfaced in the 1970s with the actual discovery of Trancutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Today’s electronic pain killers have been designed to provide different levels of intensity meant to treat different kinds of pain.

What Does TENS Stand For: What Does A TENS Unit Do?

You may be wondering just what is a TENS unit? They are a portable battery-powered apparatus that may not be any bigger than your average remote control for your electronic devices at home.  The control is the heart and soul of your TENS machine. Connected to that handheld unit will be wires – typically two or more– that have electrodes (hidden in flat pancake shaped pads) attached at the other end.

The TENS Business End…Where The Action Happens

These pads are the business end of a TENS unit and they are applied to your skin at, or near the location of pain. With the controls contained on the handheld box, you can do a lot of things with the electrical current sent to the electrode pads. The best benefit is, you relieve pain naturally without needing to resort to drugs.

You can adjust the level of intensity and how it is applied. That is to say, the current can be sent in a series of pulses or a burst which you control. Many people when asking what is a TENS Unit and are they safe to use, worry about not being in control and getting a dangerous electric shock. I repeat, you are in control all the time.

What Does A TENS Unit Do With Electrode Signals? Stimulates The Nerves For Pain Relief….

What does a tens unit do when it works? The electrical signal sent to the electrode pads stimulate the nerves underneath the skin, and near where the pads are attached to your skin. For example, if you had lower back pain, you would attach the pads with a gel or other substance to make them stay in place. You would position them on your back near where you are experiencing the pain.

The Pulses Stimulate Natural Pain Killers Called Endorphins…

The pulses or bursts sent to those pads stimulates the nerves in your lower back. Depending on the intensity level, you may feel a tingling sensation, but you should not feel the lower back pain.

The electrical current essentially confuses the brain into thinking there is no pain, releasing good feeling endorphins to deal with the extra nerve stimulation. Endorphins are natural pain killers produced organically in your body.

What Does A TENS Unit Do – Specific Uses

What is a TENS Unit Effective For In Treating Health Issues?

best tens for home use What is a TENS useful in treating? TENS Unit therapy is used to treat more than just pain. In fact, it is also popular in combating a number of symptoms and illnesses.

TENS Unit therapy is known for use in relieving the pain associated with muscle, joint or bone conditions resulting from osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia. TENS is very effective in treating:

  • chronic pain
  • neck pain
  • bursitis
  • tendinitis
  • labor pain for women during birth
  • and has met with success in the treatment of cancer pain

The Safety of TENS Therapy

Generally speaking, there are no real side effects to using a TENS unit. The extremely low level of electricity should not be cause of great concern. However, if the system is not used properly, and the electrode pads are not regularly replaced to prevent wear and tear, caution should be exercised.

Also, if you are wondering what does tens stand for, as this is regarded as an alternative therapy, you should always consult with your family physician before using this to treat any ailment. Ask them what their knowledge is and to explain the benefits of

Ask Your Treating MD About Any Possible Side Effects…

Your doctor can advise you on possible side effects specifically related to your personal level of health or other pre-existing conditions. It is also not a good idea to rely solely on an alternative therapy. Instead combining it with conventional treatments for the best possible health outcome works very well.

Possible Issues with a TENS Unit

As is the case with any kind of device, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all TENS machine. That being said, some users may experience muscle soreness from long-term use at higher than necessary power intensities.

Others could find themselves dealing with skin irritation related to how the electrode pads are applied. It is important to keep them clean and to replace any pads that appear worn.

Pregnant Women Should Never Use Any Type Of TENS Machine

Pregnant women should avoid using TENS Unit therapy. Common sense reminders include not to use your TENS unit in water, while driving or sleeping.

Because of how the system stimulates nerves under the skin, you should not use this device near your eyes, temples, on your head or if you have a pacemaker.

The TENS Machine Marketplace

There are a number of manufacturers that produce these electronic pain relief devices. They will include such well known brand names as truMedic, Santamedical, HealthmateForever, Current Solutions, AccuRelief, Pure Enrichment, Icy Hot, Zewa, Omron, Therapeutix-USA, iReliev, Roscoe Medical and XFT to name a few.

All The Accessories And Replacement Parts Are Easily Available Online…

In addition to various designs of TENS units, there are as many different kinds of accessories available for your device. Everything from replacement electrode pads and wires to batteries are sold for these units.

1) The TENS 7000

For example, the TENS 7000 is a good choice for pain management simply because it is promoted as a muscle stimulator by the manufacturer – with a particular emphasis on helping ease back pain.

For Everyday Pain Relief & Part Of A Rehab Program …

This TENS unit is also designed for use as part of a rehabilitation program. What makes it unique is the four electrode pad design that is powered by a single 9-volt battery. It is considered a powerful portable unit with “a great deal of flexibility and many adjustable settings.”

2) Omron Make Top Quality TENS Units

Then there’s products produced by the Omron Corporation. Originating from a start in Japan in 1933, this company has grown to take on many different branches of business.

If you like the quality and design of Omron, read our detailed Omron TENS Unit Reviews

Omron is still best known for health care products. The main thrust of Omron is electronics, you and I know them as the company that made our digital thermometers, nebulizers and digital blood pressure monitors.

They also make a pretty good line of TENS units which are considered by many to be pretty much the top end all other TENS machines are measured against.

3) truMedic Is A Consistent Best Seller On Amazon

Another company well known in the electronic pulse massager marketplace is truMedic and their PL-009 is an innovative portable product.

This particular model the manufacturer promotes as being a handy massager that can be used at home, in the office or gym. In fact, they have targeted that market.

The truMedic PL-009 is meant to fight muscle soreness and stiff joints (after a workout) to chronic pain and all kinds of discomfort resulting from pain.


The Pads Are as Important as the TENS Unit

While the handheld device with the battery in it and the controls for intensity and type of massage is important, the pads that are attached to your skin do most of the work. When it comes to electronic pulse massagers, you can’t have one without the other, although it’s the pads that could very easily be the most important component of any TENS unit.

Place The Pads On The Sore Area…

What makes the TENS pads so significant is how they are placed in the area to be treated. Sometimes a stabbing pain is easy to identify as coming from a centralized location. Widespread pain is not as easy to pinpoint.

What makes the electrode pads so valuable is that they can be used to treat any kind of pain – it just depends on how they are placed on your body.

The Electrode Pads Allow You To Treat Just Where You Need Pain Relief…

The pads allow you to direct the electronic pulses to where they need to be in order to treat your pain. The TENS pads are designed to ‘stick’ just about anywhere you put them and it is advised that you use a gel or cream to assist with placement.

Place Them Anywhere, Just Not In Contact With Each Other…

You can place them pretty much anywhere you have pain, but they should not come in contact with each other. Another point to keep in mind is the further apart they are, the less effective they will be.

Placement Is Key…

Ideally you will want to have one located at the top of the ‘pain zone’ and the other at the bottom or at either side of an area of pain. Pad placement will be key to the kind of results you will experience with a TENS unit.

Warnings and Precautions

Any kind of health care that is not medical in application is considered alternative and TENS therapy falls under that category. As such, you are advised to consult with your medical professional prior to including a TENS unit as part of your pain management program.

Check in With Your Doctor…

Your doctor will be able to determine whether or not this form of therapy is a good or bad match for any current medical treatment you may be using. It is not a good idea to replace medical pain relief programs completely with a TENS program.

Don’t Use Them When Driving Or Sleeping- Commonsense Is Called For

There are also a number of common sense precautions that are outlined in most instruction manuals but include reminders to not use a TENS unit when driving or sleeping. The pads should not get wet so it is not a good idea to start a treatment in a bath or shower.

What If My Skin Gets Red…

If your skin is irritated by the pads and turns red, this may be a result of the intensity level being too high. If the condition persists you should stop using the massager. Be sure to read and follow all instructions and do not try to make the unit do something more than it is designed for.

Our Closing Thoughts on What Is A TENS Unit

For many suffering from chronic pain using a TENS unit has been the answer to relieving soreness. Others experience little improvement, even after several treatments. These products are produced with quality components and if used properly should at least take away some of your pain.

If you do not immediately have results, be patient and continue with the treatments. Nobody wants to suffer with long term pain and discomfort. TENS Unit therapy is not a new fad that just magically appeared. It has been documented over centuries that electricity has an effect on pain management. In the modern world that means using a portable, handheld TENS unit. If you are curious about what is a TENS Unit and can it stop chronic pain, we think you should definitely try these cost effect solutions to stopping life affecting pain today.

What Is A TENS Unit? Everything You Ever Wanted to Know!
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What Is A TENS Unit? Everything You Ever Wanted to Know!
A TENS Unit which delivers an electrical pulse to stop pain sounds scary! Millions of people around the world successfully use these TENS machines to stop chronic pain
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