By Derek Benoit June 23rd, 2021
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What You’ll Learn in this Article:
- What a TENS device is
- How a TENS device works
- Conditions a TENS device can help
- Who may want to avoid using a TENS device
- Body parts where a TENS device is a No-Go
- Possible side effects of using a TENS device
- Where to get a TENS device
A TENS device could be a Godsend. With joint pain, typical errands are difficult enough. Hence walking over sand, rough trails, climbing steep rocks, or balancing on a pitching deck becomes impossible. Outdoorsmen and women that have beaten up their knees, ankles, hips, back and just about anything else can find effective relief. Enter the TENS device and its pain relief potential.
What Exactly IS a TENS Device?
A TENS device (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) is a small, battery powered medical device that delivers adjustable low voltage current through the skin. Via electrodes, this current is intended to stimulate the nervous system. Thus the electrodes are placed on the skin at key nerve locations.
Source of Pain Relief
As a result of nerve stimulation the body releases endorphins and other secretions. These secretions are theorized to block pain. Another theory is that the electrical current blocks pain by occupying the nerves themselves. This prevents pain signals from reaching nerve endings. Thus the patient’s perception of pain is changed (Cleveland Clinic 2020, Opara 2020, UIHC 2021). Such devices have become increasingly popular as they’re a genuinely drug-free alternative for both chronic and acute pain (Opara 2020).
What Conditions does a TENS Device Help?
Common applications include fibromyalgia, muscle, neuropathy (common in diabetics), neck or back pain, and arthritis. These last two applications are especially of interest to aging outdoorsmen or women. Likewise for those who simply have beaten the Hell out of the joints… especially the lower body. Arthritic hips, knees, or bursitis patients should all consider this treatment (UIHC 2021). Other conditions include tendonitis, chronic pelvic pain, and even peripheral artery disease (PAD) (Cleveland Clinic, 2020).
A TENS device can be a great tool for pain relief and regaining mobility. It should be one aspect of a well-crafted plan to help restore your ability to get back to the woods, field or water. For an example of how I developed my recovery plan go here:
Who Should Avoid Using a TENS Device?
Though most TENS devices do NOT require a prescription and are widely available, ANYONE considering a TENS device should consult their physician. A professional must accurately determine the cause of their discomfort. If necessary, obtain a referral to an appropriate specialty provider for diagnosis and a treatment plan. the following people should be especially diligent in seeking TENS device advice:
- Epilepsy patients
- Patients with other neurological conditions
- Cognitively impaired people
- Pregnant women
- Cancer patients (UIHC 2021)
- Any patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a history of such
- Patients with bleeding disorders, or active bleeds (note-TENS is used in some wound treatments by professionals)
- Those with heart disease, heart failure, or arrhythmias
- Patients with implantable devices (Cleveland Clinic 2020)
- Those with infected tissues, tuberculosis, and/or osteomyelitis sores
- Patients with tissues recently treated with radiation (Opara 2020)
Places on the Body that are a No-Go
Do NOT use a TENS device near eyes, mouth, genitals or reproductive areas, the neck other than the spine, or on the head (Opara 2020). In addition to body parts that are trouble spots, there are other possible problems.
What Side Effects are Possible with a TENS Device?
Side effects are rare but do occur. Some patients have reported burn marks at electrode sites. Also reported were skin irritation, muscle spasms, and muscle soreness, or minor loss of muscle control. By far, skin irritation at the electrode site is most commonly reported. Provided that such things occur, overuse is generally the cause (Cleveland Clinic 2020, Opara 2020, UIHC 2021). Should electrodes be applied to wet skin, the result could be an unpleasantly intense shock (Cleveland Clinic 2020). Follow the directions provided by device manufacturers explicitly.
Where to Get a TENS Device
While there are prescription versions available, TENS devices do not require a prescription to obtain. You can get them at:
- Local pharmacy like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.
- Online distributors
To get a quality TENS device shipped to your door, please visit: https://ireliev.com/
Cleveland Clinic (last reviewed January 15th, 2020). Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). Health Library. Treatments and Procedures. My Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/15840-transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens
Opara, MacDonald (May 6th, 2020). 20+ Awesome Benefits of TENS Unit You Never Knew. Publications. The Body Posture. https://thebodyposture.com/what-is-tens-unit-benefits-of-tens-unit/
University of Iowa Health Care (no author) (2021). Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator. University of Iowa Health Care. The University of Iowa. https://uihc.org/health-topics/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulator-tens