Do Doctors Recommend TENS Units?

Do doctors recommend TENS units?

For many years doctors have recommended TENS units for the treatment of both acute and chronic pain.

They are not effective for everyone, and only treat the symptoms of pain rather than the source.

When you analyze the research closely, and opinions of professionals in the field, and you’ll see that they’re more widely advised for chronic conditions, such as long term low back pain.

(However TENS devices are used by many women for labor contractions, giving them a form of pain relief that they control!)

Brain and spine surgeons at Frisco Spine, including Dr. Paul Salinas, recommend TENS units to their patients for the management of chronic pain conditions:

Physicians have been using TENS Therapy since the 1960s because of its convenience and effectiveness.

Since originally being developed, TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, units have been improved dramatically, but have served the same purpose — to stimulate a patient’s nerves, muscles, and tendons to the point of pain-relief.

It’s not surprising that so many doctors recommend the therapy when you take a look at the research.

In 2014, academics reviewed all the evidence gathered about using TENS for pain control and the results all pointed in the same direction:

Using TENS therapy reduced a respondent’s ability to feel pain.

Medical professionals involved in the project also highlighted another major advantage:

The advantages of obtaining pain relief without the negative side effects of many pharmaceutical interventions is welcomed and desired by certain patients.

Dr. Leon Reyfman of Pain Physicians NY, who recommends the treatment to his patients, explains further:

The therapy is not painful at all. However, you may experience a tingling sensation while electricity is running through your body.

Once the treatment is over, you should normally feel a relief, especially in the places where the electrodes were placed, on the most painful areas…

The only problems arising from TENS pain — relief treatment are when the electrodes are placed wrong or when a too high voltage is used.

Pain relief isn’t the only benefit either, which is another reason why doctors are likely to recommend it:

TENS can reduce inflammation, produce endorphins (our happy hormones!) and allow us to have control over our treatment (important for those with long term conditions).

Practically it’s also an affordable and accessible form of pain management, with many different products on the market.

And it’s not just doctors that recommend the benefits of TENS, there are also many health foundations and professional bodies that shout about the treatment.

The Arthritis Foundation, an online community for sufferers of all types of the condition, explain that:

TENS helps acute and chronic pain. TENS has been shown to relieve osteoarthritis (OA) pain and reduce the need for pain medications.

They go on to describe how a 2015 Cochrane Review concluded that:

[there is] tentative evidence that TENS reduces pain intensity over and above that seen with placebo. It’s estimated that overall, about half of people who try TENS get a 50 percent reduction in pain.

Of course though doctors recommend TENS units, you should still speak with your medical professional before commencing treatment.

There are certain groups who should avoid the therapy, such as those with pacemakers, so it’s essential that you seek medical advice before get started.

Want to learn more?

Take a look at our favorite TENS unit, plus a breakdown of the functions and features you’ll find on different models.

Laura Smith


Laura Smith

Associate Editorial Manager

Specialist health & wellbeing writer, passionate about discovering new technologies & sharing the latest research.