Does a TENS unit help with inflammation?

Does a TENS unit help with inflammation?

Though research is fairly limited, studies have shown that TENS therapy units can be effective for reducing inflammation.

Primarily the devices are recommended by medical professionals to treat both acute and chronic pain.

And as the Division of Inflammation and Pain Research state:

In accordance with our Law of Pain, the origin of all pain is inflammation and the inflammatory response.

So exactly how do TENS units help to reduce inflammation?

A systematic review conducted in Brazil, revealed that transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation had a positive impact on proinflammatory cytokines.

Proinflammatory cytokines are your body’s “first responders”. When you have a virus or bacteria in your body, or suffer an injury, it alerts your immune system.

Your immune system jumps into action and sends out these cytokines that stimulate more inflammatory cells.

The 2018 review of five different studies, involving a combined 240 participants, observed that after the use of a TENS unit these cytokines were significantly decreased, thereby reducing inflammation.

However due to the limited findings in the area, researchers were unable to categorically state how much the nerve stimulation reduced inflammation and called for more investigation by stating:

We observed a reduction in proinflammatory cytokines after the use of TENS; however, we did not find strong evidence due to the low number of included articles.

Despite more research being needed, medical professionals, such as those at the Cleveland Clinic, still recommend the therapy for reducing inflammation, particularly for conditions such as Tendinitis and Bursitis.

Arthritis is another condition that can be positively impacted.

Dr. Kathleen Sluka, a professor of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Iowa, speaking to CreakyJoints, explains how it can help:

TENS should be considered for arthritic pain — it is inexpensive, safe and easy to use, and part of a self-management strategy for people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain conditions that gives a person the ability to control their pain.

The online community for arthritis patients and caregivers goes on to describe how:

TENS may also be used for inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, as well as chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia.

Reducing inflammation is just one advantage of using a TENS unit, however there are many more.

Regular use of low-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can ease low back pain, retrain your nerves and help to treat headaches and migraines.

Use of such a device also gives you control over your own treatment, plus they are available to buy online and at your local pharmacy.

Yet despite being widely accessible you should still speak with your medical professional before starting treatment.

There are a number of different groups who should avoid therapy, such as those with pacemakers, as well as certain areas of your body where they shouldn’t be used, so it’s essential that you seek medical advice before you purchase a unit.

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Laura Smith


Laura Smith

Associate Editorial Manager

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