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TENS Units

What is a TENS Unit

Definition: "TENS" is the acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A "TENS unit" is a pocket size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals.

The electrical currents produced are mild, but can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain).

TENS units should only be used under the direction of a doctor, physical therapist or occupational therapist. Electrodes are attached to the surface of the skin over or near the area where you are experiencing pain. It is important that you learn how to:

  • correctly put on the electrodes (proper placement is important)
  • operate the unit
  • change the batteries
  • vary the controls and settings (both the frequency and voltage)
  • set the proper duration and intensity of the stimulation (which depends on the location and type of pain)

TENS units are prescribed for both acute pain and chronic pain conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Joint pain
  • Fibromyalgia

For some chronic pain patients, a TENS unit provides pain relief that can last for several hours. For others, a TENS unit may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed.

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