Living in constant pain is a reality for many people and how
well they cope with it depends on the degree of pain and the character of the
While pain relief can be managed in the short term using
analgesics, their long-term use can be detrimental to the user’s health. Side
effects of prolonged analgesics use include liver and kidney damage and in some
cases irritation to the lining of the stomach. Thankfully, in many cases there
is an alternative: TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
In many cases where pain is constant, a medical practitioner or
physiotherapist may recommend the use of a TENS unit.
These are not a gimmick or a new-age form of treatment. Tests
have shown that TENS is an effective and safe way to manage chronic and acute
pain with virtually no side effects. Chronic pain conditions that can be
alleviated with TENS include, arthritis, lumbago, neck and back pain, post
herpetic neuralgia and sciatica. Acute pain conditions such as fractures,
muscular pains, post operative pain and tennis elbow can also be managed with a
A TENS unit provides electrical stimulation of the painful area
using electrodes attached to the skin. It can cause a tingling sensation in the
area where the pads are attached. How the TENS reduces pain is unknown. Some
suggest that the nerves are stopped from sending signals to the brain and thus
the pain is removed. Alternatively, the stimulation could induce the body to
produce natural pain relieving substances called endorphins.
Whatever the reason, a TENS unit can give pain relief for many
people, with minimal side effects. It does not provide a cure for the underlying
cause of the pain but has the major benefit that the amount of pain killing
drugs can be substantially reduced.
Adjustable voltage level
Adjustable pulse rate
Adjustable pulse width
Intermittent or continuous output
Nor is it addictive. Sometimes there can be skin irritation
surrounding the electrodes and this can be reduced or alleviated by changing the
type of electrode.
Note that a TENS unit must not be used if you have a heart
pacemaker. A TENS unit also should not be used if the cause of the pain has not
been established or if you are pregnant. When using the TENS unit do not attach
the electrodes anywhere around the front of the neck, and be sure the TENS unit
is kept out of reach of children. It should be treated like any other medicine,
by storing it in a childproof cabinet.