TENS Units for Control of Back Pain

TENS Units: Secret Pain Relief Weapon

One of the best-kept secrets for controlling back pain and neck pain is the use of a TENS unit. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator.

A TENS unit is a medical device that uses electrical waveforms to stimulate the nerves and affects the receptors for pain in the brain, causing the body to reduce pain. Knowing how to use a TENS unit could be the secret to your back and neck pain relief, especially if you are looking for a non-addictive pain control method.

Using electrical waves to heal is not a new concept in medical healing. A TENS unit has been used for the treatment of pain for at least two decades. Since physicists discovered different electrical pulses and shared this information with doctors and inventors, they have been able to test the different pulsation levels on the body for healing. A TENS unit operates at 80 to 90 Hertz, while electrical muscle stimulators (EMS) work at 1 to 130 Hertz.

TENS units have been prescribed for all different types of pain, including the following:

• Sciatica

• Foot pain

• Back pain, especially post-operative back pain

• Sprains

• Neck pain

• Bursitis

• Carpal tunnel syndrome

• The pain of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis

• Swollen joints

• Phantom limb pain (pain resulting from amputation)

How To Use a TENS Unit 

The TENS unit is composed of a unit with a computer chip inside, the electrodes and wires connecting the unit to the electrodes. Gel is also used to increase the transmission of the electrical signal.

How does it work? The TENS unit itself generates the electrical signals that travel through the wires to the electrodes and pass to the nerves under the skin. When the nerves pick up the electrical message, they transmit them to the brain.

Your doctor can give you a prescription for a TENS unit. After you receive your unit, you can place the electrodes on your skin at many different places. For example, if you have muscle spasms that won’t quit or painful joints, you may cover the area of pain with the electrodes. However, the electrodes should never be placed on the neck in the front at the location of the carotid artery (throat area), on the head, near the heart, or on top of a tumor or cancerous lesion.

When the unit is turned on, it begins alternating high wavelengths with low ones. You will not feel any pain. If you feel muscle twitching, the settings need to be decreased. It’s the tingling sensation that you are after, not muscle contraction.

The unit is generally turned on for about 20 minutes. Since TENS units are used under medical supervision, it is best to obtain personalized instructions on what to do when you receive one.

The beauty of using a TENS unit for pain is that you can adjust it to meet your body’s needs. Certain settings are pre-set in the unit while others such as the length of time the pulse is felt and the strength of the pulse are variable by the user.

Some Warnings on TENS Units

As good as a TENS unit is, there are some people who should not use this device. Here’s a short list of those contraindications:

• If you have a heart pacemaker or a heart condition

• If you are pregnant, although a TENS unit may be used during labor

• If you have impaired circulation

• If you have cancer

• If you have epilepsy

Like other electrical devices, a TENS unit should not be used during sleeping or while you are submerged in water.

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