TENS Units - An Overview


With so many people suffering from chronic pain conditions, it is no wonder the United States has fallen prey to an opioid crisis. 

While lawmakers and medical professionals struggle for an effective balance in medication prescribing practices, individual patients seeking relief from ongoing painful conditions are caught in the balance.  Many patients seek chiropractic care after finding traditional medicine lacking.  Fortunately, chiropractors access a variety of therapies.  The next series of articles will look at the effectiveness of TENS Units in treating pain. 


What is TENS?


TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.  A TENS unit is a small, battery-operated device that connects to electrodes that are attached to the skin.  Gentle electric signals are sent from the unit, through the electrodes, creating a tingling sensation in the general area.  This sensation stimulates tissues, muscles and nerves, disrupting any overactive pain signals being sent from the brain into specific, isolated areas of the body.  Chiropractors often use TENS therapy to disrupt pain responses prior to adjustment. 


Is TENS Safe?


TENS units operate by pushing between 1 and 350 volts of electric current through the system.  While this can seem like a high voltage, the amps generated via TENS are relatively low, thereby reducing the risk of electric shock.  However, this type of electrical impulse therapy can interfere with certain conditions and should not be used with the following: 

  • pregnancy

  • heart disorders or pacemaker use

  • epilepsy or seizure disorder

  • cochlear implants

  • titanium plates, screws, etc.

Caution should be taken in used TENS with any other device that utilizes electromagnetic frequencies.  Also, TENS should only be used on healthy tissue, so people with skin disorders should only use the unit on areas of clear, unbroken skin.


How Does TENS Work?


When the body experiences a malfunction, the brain responds by activating the nervous system and stimulating a pain signal.  Studies show low frequency TENS activates the µ-opioid receptors in the nervous system.  High frequency TENS activates the ô- opioid receptors.  These are the same receptors that are activated or blocked with prescription medications.  Further, TENS has been shown to reduce inflammation by stimulating the tissues, muscles and nerves in a general area.


Cost of a TENS Units


The number of people seeking alternate pain relief therapies has increased, making TENS Units more widely available.  Some units also offer EMS (Electronic Muscle Stimulation) therapy modes in addition to simple TENS.  Electrodes, belts and other accessories have been developed to improve the functionality of treatment for different areas of the body.  Depending upon the type of unit, accessories and technology, TENS Units can cost anywhere between $50 and $500. 


Closing Thoughts from Dr. Tali

Chronic pain can seriously impact the quality of life of a person.  Many seek relief using prescription pain medication, which can lead to addiction issues.  Over-the-counter medications also carry a risk of dangerous side effects.  Thus, alternative therapies like TENS can offer great relief to patients experiencing in pain.  When coupled with chiropractic adjustments and ongoing therapy, pain relief is available.  At Radiant Health Chiropractic, we will recommend an individualized plan of care to treat your pain.  The next series of articles will explore how TENS and EMS therapies can significantly reduce pain for patients.  Call today to schedule an appointment for an evaluation. 

In wellness,

Dr. Tali