Can A Tens Machine Help Alleviate Your Pain?

Muscle and nerve injuries are very common occurrences and can often make it difficult for patients both in the short- and long-term, as they tend to linger and sometimes worsen over time. The tens machine is designed to give you a break from the pain and limit the amount of medication use you may otherwise be dependent upon. Here are a few things you should know about tens machines:

What is a tens machine?

TENS is a short form for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulations. It spreads electrical currents across a region of your skin to stimulate your nerves and reduce pain for both your nerves and muscles. A tens machine operates on a low or high pulse rate, each with its own benefits. At a high pulse rate, the electrical currents block pain messages that are being sent from the nerve/muscle to your brain by closing what is often referred to as the 'pain gate mechanism'. Essentially, what happens when you experience pain is the gateway is open allowing those pain messages to be sent on to the brain, which is when you feel the pain. The high pulse rate from the tens machine preoccupies the brain, distracting it from the slower pain signals that would otherwise come from the injury.

The lower pulse rates block the pain signals from traveling to your brain by jamming the gate mechanism with natural pain-easing chemicals known as endorphins. Your body creates these endorphins as the lower pulses travel across your skin. Once the endorphins are created, they act as a natural form of morphine, which prevents your brain from feeling the pain. Many patients refer to this as a numbing massage agent.

When should tens machines be used?

Therapy from tens machines are prescribed and administered by a doctor or physical therapist. They are typically used for long-term pain that is found in knee arthritis and back pain, although mothers have found a use for the method during child labour. Other common uses include sports injuries, headaches, menstrual cramping and sometimes even insomnia or dementia when used in short doses.

Tens machines are meant to be used as short-term relief for pain. For some patients, it can limit the amount of pain medication you may find yourself relying upon after an injury has occurred or even throughout the length of what may be chronic pain you're experiencing. Because it is not considered a method of rehabilitation, patients should remember that tens machines are only used to offer short-term relief.