Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

TENS devices – the pain therapy at home

Chronic pain is one of the most common symptoms of the most diverse ailments in Germany and hardly anything interferes so strongly in everyday life and impairs the general well-being as constant pain. Although there are a number of quite effective therapies that can be used by doctors or physiotherapists, it is precisely in acute cases at home or when traveling that patients need a sensible alternative.

Not least because of this, TENS units for home use have become established. The handy devices fight the pain by means of electric shocks. It is less dangerous than it sounds and has proven itself in practice.

What are TENS devices and how do they work??

TENS is the abbreviation for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and refers to the treatment of specific areas of the body by means of electrodes applied to the skin. In addition, there is the so-called EMS, electromyostimulation, which does not target the nerves, but rather the muscles and is used in rehabilitation.

TENS and EMS devices are available from online retailers, pharmacies or medical supply stores and can even be rented. With successful application, however, it is worthwhile for many patients to buy such a device, especially since many health insurance companies cover the acquisition costs at least in part.

The foundation of TENS treatment is the so-called control barrier theory, according to which a pain stimulus passes through a control unit located in the spinal cord as it is transmitted to the brain. The basic idea is therefore to block this instance by overriding it with the current stimuli of the electrodes.

TENS units deliver pulses of electricity in a frequency range that either blocks pain transmission in the spinal cord or rearranges it in a way that dulls the brain’s perception of pain. In the best case, the actual pain that afflicts the patient is eliminated or at least noticeably reduced.

Advantages of pain treatment with electricity

Critics often claim that pain therapy with TENS devices is not adequately proven by studies. In fact, the relevant studies are currently still lacking in terms of evidence.

Since pain is a very subjective perception, the clear provability of the therapy seems to be difficult. The fact that TENS units are nevertheless used more and more is due to the simple fact that the treatment with current usually shows no side effects.

Only minor skin irritations have been documented so far. So if the application is not crowned with the hoped-for success, this does not have any further negative consequences. Conversely, however, the treatment promises to have a big impact for patients who have been plagued by chronic pain to date. The cost of the treatment is also manageable.

No medical equipment and no special knowledge is necessary to treat with a TENS device. This is one of the reasons why more and more pain patients are buying such a device for their homes.

TENS easy and safe to use at home

Before using a TENS unit at home, you should familiarize yourself with its use and get training if necessary. Once internalized, however, the application itself is relatively simple and risk-free.

A TENS unit has two to four self-adhesive diodes that are stuck to the skin. Depending on the location or radiation of the pain, the nerve pathways must be properly targeted. This should first be demonstrated by a doctor or other professional before trying it at home. Then the frequency is adjusted.

The best successes currently provide frequencies between 100 and 150 hertz at medium current strength. This setting relieves acute pain immediately. In the treatment of chronic and persistent pain, on the other hand, lower frequencies with higher current strength help.

On average, such an application lasts only 20-50 minutes, although this may vary depending on the type of pain, intensity and patient sensation. The good thing about a TENS therapy is that it is usually free of side effects and can in principle be repeated without restriction. Several applications a day over a very long period of time are possible without any significant side effects.