TENS Machines And Physiotherapy
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or T.E.N.S. for short is a electrotherapeutic device commonly used in physiotherapy and other allied medical fields such as midwifery and chiropractic care. In the acronym TENS, the “T” stands for “transcutaneous”, a word that simply means “across the skin”. Therefore a TENS unit basically stimulates your nerves via a mild electrical current applied to your skin and this mild current helps achieve the proven TENS pain relief in a number of ways. Setting the machine up correctly so you can achieve the TENS pain relief specific for your needs is important and a TENS machine has a few settings beyond simply the electrode placement and intensity of current adjusted to individual preferences. Although generally TENS is not curative of injury, or the process behind the pain it can be an effective pain relief device and can result in reduced pain levels at both the time of application, and lasting sometimes up to hours after application.
Across many physiotherapy practices throughout Sydney TENS is effectively used in physio sessions to assist in providing pain relief in both acute and chronic pain situations. However, given the units are relatively cheap at Sydney Physio Clinic we don’t use TENS during the session as we feel paying a physio north of $100 to be put on what is effectively a $50 TENS machine for 30 mins doesn’t make sense, we are however certainly happy to discuss this use of TENS and its relevance in each individuals specific situation and are frequently happy to loan out a TENS unti for a trial period to see if it is something a patient benefits from and values enough to purchase their own unit.
Adjusting The Mode For Relieving Discomfort
There are three mode settings on a standard TENS machine and these are Normal, Burst and Modulation. Often TENS units will have these three modes distinguished through using the letters N. B and M.
- The Normal (N) setting provides constant stimulation and is most the commonly used setting. N setting helps provide pain relief via the pain gate method great in acute pain situations.
- Modulation (M) uses cyclical current to help reduce nerve adaptation over time which is a phenomenon that can occur with the “Normal” setting. This mode can be effectively used when hoping to achieve both acute, or chronic pain relief and a great option when the unit is worn for extended periods of time.
- Burst Mode (B) is a useful mode for chronic pain situations. With burst mode the TENS unit sends through a burst of current providing pain relief and again like “Modulation” mode this mode can help combat nerve adaptation something which can occur with prolonged use.
Pulse Rate For Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Pain Relief
Pulse rate (or frequency) refers to the number of electrical pulses provided per second. Pain relief can occur at a variety of frequencies and for acute pain settings used that range between 80-120 Hz are typically where as in chronic pain situations TENS pain relief settings are lower and sit around the 2-10Hz mark, frequencies that can be used to help stimulate endorphin release.
Generally it is safe to use a TENS machine for pain relief as often as you like and a “dose session” is usually somewhere in the vicinity of 30-60 minutes provided anywhere up to 4-5 times a day. However, specific recommendations on electrode placement, mode, pulse rate and treatment duration offered by your treating physiotherapist may vary. If you have questions about if TENS may be relevant for you or if you have a TENS unit and are wondering how to go about using it including where to place the electrodes, how strong to set it, what mode…. then a physio is a good starting point and at Sydney Physio Clinic we would be happy to help guide you.
Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic provides this information as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on TENS Pain Relief Settings should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist, medical specialist, or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.