Understanding TENS Therapy

When it comes to pain management, your options aren’t limited to medications, injections, and surgery. Many noninvasive, nonaddictive therapies can provide pain relief for those suffering from acute or chronic pain, including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy.

Maybe you’ve heard of TENS therapy, but you’re not sure how it works or if it can help you. At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland, our pain management physicians use TENS therapy to complement other treatments such as physical therapy. 

Here, we discuss TENS therapy and how it can benefit your pain management program. 

How pain works

When you stub your toe, the pain you feel is instantaneous. This is because sensory nerves in your toe quickly deliver the pain signal to your spinal cord and brain using a combination of electrical and chemical pathways. 

Your body uses pain to let you know something is amiss so you can take immediate action. With chronic pain, these pain signals are constant. 

There may be an underlying issue triggering the sensory nerves to send the pain message, such as arthritis or a herniated disc. Sometimes, these pain signals misfire, sending pain messages with no real cause.

How TENS therapy works

TENS therapy is a noninvasive pain management tool. During treatment, we attach special electrodes to your skin near the source of your pain and activate the TENS unit. The unit sends a mild electrical current to the electrodes, which helps decrease pain sensations. 

It’s not entirely clear how TENS therapy reduces pain. Many theorize that the mild electrical current stimulates the nerve cells that block the pain signals, stopping transmission to your brain and spinal cord. 

It’s also thought that TENS therapy stimulates the nerve cells to release endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers. 

What happens during TENS therapy

TENS therapy may be a treatment we provide at the office, or it may be part of your physical therapy treatment plan. You may consider purchasing a TENS unit on your own at your local pharmacy, but we recommend talking to us first so we can help you find the right device. 

When we administer TENS therapy, one of our pain management specialists determines where to place the electrodes and then adjusts the voltage to find the setting that provides the best relief. To get the most out of your TENS therapy, we recommend 30-60 minute sessions two to three days a week. 

We find that patients get the most benefit from TENS therapy when they use it during physical activity. It seems to be less effective at relieving pain when you’re sitting or resting. 

Who benefits from TENS therapy

We use TENS therapy to manage acute and chronic pain conditions. While not everyone benefits from TENS therapy, the noninvasive pain management tool may work for you. Some of the conditions that benefit from TENS therapy include:

The team at Orthopedic & Wellness offers many innovative pain management treatments, and we work with you to find the therapy that helps you get control over your pain. Book an appointment by phone or online at the office nearest you to set up a consultation.

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