What is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is the most common form of electrical stimulation used in pain management. It is not painful and does not require needles or medicine. TENS consists of a small, battery-operated device that can diminish pain by stimulating nerve fibers through the skin. Patients can also benefit from electrical spinal stimulation.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a frequently used treatment for pain relief. Electrodes are placed on the skin and electric current is applied at different frequencies and intensities. The electrodes should not be placed in an area of sensory impairment due to the possibility of burns. In those patients with an intrathecal pump, a TENS unit should be used with caution. TENS may work by blocking pain in the spinal cord. Another theory is that stimulation with TENS causes natural pain relieving substances, like endorphins, to be released.

Many clinical reports exist concerning the use of TENS for low back pain, myofascial and arthritic pain, bladder incontinence, neurogenic pain, visceral pain, and post-surgical pain. TENS is often used in combination with other treatments prescribed by your doctor, and may help reduce the need for pain medication.
Howard S. Smith
Pain Medicine
With transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), electrical impulses sent to certain nerves that block the messages of pain being sent by other nerves from the painful area. These impulses might also cause the body to release endorphins, which are natural pain relievers produced by the body. With TENS, you wear a stimulator and battery, usually on a belt. Electrical wires from the stimulator attach to electrodes held by adhesive, usually a patch, on the skin. The electrodes are placed in the area of pain but may need to be tried at different locations to get the best relief. The TENS unit can be used throughout most of the day (e.g. one hour on; one hour off) or only as needed for the pain. Usually there will be a trial of about one month to see the effect on pain.
Harris H. McIlwain, MD
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a pain treatment that uses small amounts of electrical stimulation to help block the nerve signals that carry pain messages to the spinal cord and brain. Electrode pads are placed in proper areas, depending on your pain location, with a small battery pack that is often worn on the belt like a pager or cell phone. The amount of electrical stimulation can be adjusted. TENS does not work for every patient but many people find that it brings some relief. You will not know if it can work for you until you try it.
Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

More About this Book

Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

Do you wake up each morning aching with joint or muscle pain? Have you been trying to lose stubborn belly fat for years? Do you wish you could be active without pain medications? Look no further:...

Continue Learning about Pain Treatment

Opioid-Free Ways to Beat Pain
Opioid-Free Ways to Beat Pain
Opioid addiction and overdose rates have reached epidemic levels, yet doctors still prescribe the drugs. Why? They work well to control pain, and in m...
Read More
What should I consider before using topical pain relievers?
Grant Cooper, MDGrant Cooper, MD
There are a few important points to consider if you decide to try topical pain relievers.Discuss thi...
More Answers
What should I do if my shoes hurt my feet?
Christopher Chiodo, MDChristopher Chiodo, MD
If you have foot discomfort in a particular pair of shoes, your first step should be to invest i...
More Answers
What Natural Methods Can I Use to Reduce Pain?
What Natural Methods Can I Use to Reduce Pain?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.