Electrical nerve stimulation uses a low-level electrical signal to stimulate nerves and block pain signals from reaching the brain. These therapies can bring relief to pain sufferers, and can often be used at home.
What Is TENS?
Commonly called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), this therapy sends small electrical signals through the skin and into the affected area of the body, stimulating nerves to carry a different type of signal. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation therapy is performed using a small, battery-powered unit. Electrodes are placed in sets on the skin in the painful area or pressure point and connected to the device. One electrode provides a positive charge, while the other provides a negative charge, creating a “circuit” using the nerves.
When powered on, the device sends low-level electrical impulses through the skin and nerves, changing the pain signal being relayed to the brain. Some use a steady flow, while others prefer patterns of pulses to bring relief. You can also adjust the intensity of the flow, which can be helpful depending on your sensitivity and the area of your body that’s being stimulated. The electrical signals created by the TENS unit are sent to the brain, scrambling the pain signal originating from the painful area.
Generally, your doctor or physical therapist will guide you through applying and using your TENS unit the first time, and they will help you determine which settings work best. After the initial set up, you can perform the therapy at home as needed. For safe use, it is important to always follow directions for use and notify your doctor before beginning a new therapy.
What Can TENS Help?
TENS is used to treat many types of pain, including joint, muscle, and bone pain. This pain may be caused by a wide variety of conditions, including injuries, fibromyalgia, arthritis, tendonitis, and more. It can be used to treat acute pain, such as labor pains, menstrual pains, and sprains. It also can be used to manage chronic pain, such as pain from cancer, osteoarthritis, and injuries.
What is PENS?
Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (PENS) works similarly to TENS, except it uses small needles inserted into the skin, rather than electrodes. It is often recommended for patients that did not find TENS therapy to be effective for treating their pain.
PENS therapy is commonly used in a medical office setting but can be used at home as well. The needles are inserted into the affected area near the nerves, which allows this therapy to deliver a more targeted impulse and can reduce a nerve’s sensitivity to pain. Treatments typically last a half hour and leave the patient with a wider range of movement and better physical functioning.
How Long Does PENS Last?
The amount of time a PENS treatment is effective can vary widely, based on the individual patient. Some patients find the treatment to last for some time and is effective right away, while other patients may take more treatments to see results or may require more frequent treatments.
What Can PENS Treat?
PENS is effective for many types of pain, such as chronic and acute pain stemming from a variety of conditions. Like TENS, it can bring relief to pain sufferers who may not be getting relief from traditional pain management techniques. PENS is also particularly recommended for diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
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