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Portable TENS Units - An Alternative Therapy for Treatment of Pain

Pain management is a growing and changing industry. A safe, effective, non-addictive treatment seems like the unreachable Holy Grail, but many patients feel they have found it through the use of TENS units. Treatments which were once thought to be quack medicine is now proving to be as effective and safer than many of the current drug therapies. There is an increasing need for managing pain as the baby boomer generation begins to age and chronic, age related aches and pains begin to arise. Rather than turning to costly and potentially dangerous pain medications, many patients are looking for other ways to alleviate their pains, such as can be found in the use of  TENS and portable TENS units.


TENS units stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Transcutaneous literally means across the skin. These units work to alleviate pain by sending a mild electrical pulse through the skin to stimulate the nerves beneath. The specific nerves targeted will determine the area of pain relief. When using these, the patient should be sure to use a cream that is designed especially to help conduct electricity from the unit through his skin. This will increase the effectiveness of the treatment. While the treatment must be repeated every few hours for continual pain management, there are portable devices to make this more convenient for the patient. Portable TENS units should be lightweight and easy to carry. In many cases they can be worn next to the skin. If this is the case, the units need to either be battery operated or rechargeable. 


Pain easement in almost any part of the body can come from using a TENS units. There are certain body parts where a physician should supervise the use of the unit in order to prevent injury. In cases of pain in the neck and head, the patient should first consult with his physician. The doctor might even have a unit for the patient to use in his office. In any case, patients should never use a  TENS unit or portable TENS unit on their face, head, or neck without discussing it with a physician. All of the nerves in your body converge on the brain in your head. Many nerves that control the heart and other vital body operations run through the head, and without a doctor's supervision, the patient might stimulate the wrong nerve, which could lead to injury. Additionally, patients who are equipped with pace makers should not use electrical nerve stimulation since the charge could interfere with the pace maker's operation. Those who are pregnant, nursing, have diabetes, metallic body part replacements or plates, have heart conditions or high blood pressure should talk to their physician before using electrical stimulation of the nerves.


TENS units are not a permanent solution for chronic pain and may result in gradually decreasing benefits when used over a prolonged period of time.  TENS units may also mask the pain while having minimum impact of the treatment of the injury.  TENS units are not recommended as a substitute for regimented physical rehabilitation therapy programs, but may be used in parallel with physical therapy.  Most stationary TENS or portable TENS units require a doctor’s prescription.  Since settings and options vary from unit to unit, always consult with a doctor or a chiropractor about the proper use of your TENS unit. 


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