You may have heard a lot about TENS units or perhaps you’ve just discovered the therapy and want to know more. Chances are what you really want to know is whether TENS actually works?
With more and more research coming to light to prove the effectiveness of TENS treatment, we’ve compiled 20 TENS unit benefits so you have all the information you need before you make a purchase.
1: Drug-free natural pain relief
One of the major benefits of TENS therapy is that it’s a natural and effective form of pain relief with little or no known side effects.
A systematic review of research in 2014 found that overwhelmingly TENS was proven to treat both acute and chronic pain.
TENS is often chosen as a treatment by those who are looking for a drug-free option to avoid the known negative side effects of taking pain medication.
For example, a longitudinal research project published in 2015 looked at how the side effects of pain medication can influence a patient’s daily activities.
The study demonstrated the alarming impact on a patient’s abilities to achieve simple tasks.
It recommended that physicians need to balance the impact of the side effects of the medication with the relief from pain before prescribing.
2: Produces endorphins
Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers. They are essentially hormones that exist in the brain, that are released when the body experiences any sort of stress.
The endorphins act as transmitters creating a feeling of ecstasy and well-being which in turn helps to reduce pain signals.
Natural ways to release endorphins include music, sex, chocolate and group exercise.
The NHS also recognizes that a TENS unit helps to produce endorphins. The electrical impulses are thought to stimulate the production of endorphins.
This short film from neurotech explains how the process works:
Research shows how important endorphins are in pain management, which is one of the reasons why TENS is thought to be effective for pain relief.
3: Decreases pain signals to the brain
Studies have proven that a TENS unit can help to decrease or block pain signals traveling to the brain, providing users with the pain relief they crave.
When you look at the science behind how a TENS unit actually works, you can see how the machine stimulates the nerves. It’s this stimulation that is thought to keep the pain signals from reaching the brain.
4: Retrains your nerves
As well as reducing pain signals that are sent to the brain, it is also thought that over time a TENS machine can actually retrain the nerves, even for those suffering from nerve damage.
Chiropractors feel that the treatment, if conducted over an extended period of time, can change the behavior of the nerve and stop it from sending pain signals to the brain.
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5: Reduces inflammation
Though research is still limited, studies have shown that TENS is effective in reducing inflammation.
Researchers can’t confirm exactly how TENS manages to achieve this, however a study on pro inflammatory cytokines did find it to be effective.
6: Control over your treatment
A TENS unit provides you with complete control over your treatment, unlike pain medications where it isn’t always possible or feasible to simply increase or reduce the dose if it isn’t working.
Depending which unit you choose, you’re provided with a range of different intensity settings and modes to target the pain, it’s simply a case of finding the best TENS unit for your needs.
When users speak about chronic daily pain, they often speak of the frustration they feel in terms of having no control over their pain.
User feedback suggests that TENS offers that control, helping with psychological impacts of day to day pain management.
7: Effective for different conditions
A TENS unit has been shown through research to be effective for a wide range of different conditions. In particular back and knee pain, as well as the many different forms of arthritis.
There are also a number of lesser known uses for a TENS machine including for those suffering from urinary incontinence as well as mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
8: Little or no side effects
One of the many reasons that the NHS suggests TENS units for managing pain is because they are found to have little or no side effects.
Side effects from overuse have been reported, however you should always speak to a medical professional before starting treatment so they can advise on correct usage.
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9: Effective complementary therapy
The nature of a TENS unit (non-invasive, little or no known side effects) makes it an excellent complementary therapy to more intensive treatments.
For example a study published in 2015, which looked at women with pelvic pain associated with endometriosis, found that TENS was effective in treating the symptoms of the condition when used alongside hormone treatment.
10: Suitable for chronic and acute pain
TENS is a treatment that is found to be effective for both chronic and acute pain.
Typically health professionals recommend TENS as a therapy for chronic pain, however there is still evidence that TENS can be an effective treatment for acute pain conditions.
11: Mimics massage
As well as proving effective in pain relief, a number of TENS units also come with massage programs, allowing you to enjoy the effects of a relaxing massage as well as target your pain.
TechCare’s Plus 24 is a great example of this with program names that have been derived from massage techniques such as kneading, Swedish and scraping.
A TENS machine is a non-invasive way to manage your pain. Electrodes are attached to the body and can be moved to target the pain, making it a low risk treatment option.
However you should still speak to your health professional before commencing treatment.
13: Use at home
If you suffer from daily pain, a treatment option you can use in the comfort of your home is certainly desirable and an obvious benefit.
You can pop on your TENS machine and get comfortable in your favorite chair or attach it whilst doing your day to day activities around the house.
TENS units are also small, meaning they don’t take up much room in your home or your bag! Other pain relief products, such as those recommended for back pain, can be a little more hefty.
Inversion tables or massage chairs require you to make room in your home, whereas a TENS machine can simply be stored away in a drawer.
As well as being small, units are also portable. Anyone suffering from daily pain knows that you need treatment not just in the comfort of your own home but while out of the home too.
With a TENS machine being small and discreet they’re easily transported whilst out and about.
TENS units can also be worn outside of the home, with certain accessories including shoes and socks, meaning you can receive treatment whilst on the move.
TENS units can be worn and used discreetly whether you’re at home or work, making it a realistic daily treatment option.
There are even completely wireless units such as iReliev’s Wireless TENS and EMS Muscle Stimulator, which has no wires running from the controller so can be worn without anybody knowing. Plus it’s neat, compact and light as a feather!
17: Simple to use
TENS units are simple to use, even in the stress of labor users reported a positive experience.
It’s important to shop around to find a TENS unit that you can operate easily, however it is felt that if you can operate a smartphone you’ll have no problem using a TENS unit.
A TENS unit can be an affordable treatment option, which is the reason many people select it as a complementary therapy.
In fact when users speak about the treatment they often mention affordability compared to a physiotherapist or expensive equipment such as an inversion table.
The cost of a TENS unit varies widely however typically it costs between $20 and $200 depending on the specification.
It’s worth looking at a comparison of devices to see what you’re getting for your money.
19: Long-term use
Unlike certain painkillers and invasive treatments, a TENS unit is a good long term treatment option.
With little or no side effects found from the unit, it can be used as a daily treatment for as long as required or sporadically depending on the nature of your pain.
20: Purchased over the counter (OTC)
There’s no need to get a prescription for most TENS machines as they can purchased over the counter and online from a number of different outlets.
However it is still recommended that you speak to a health professional as a TENS unit isn’t suitable for all types of pain or all conditions. For example people who have a pacemaker or suffer from epilepsy should avoid the treatment.