Hide This

FREEHER HealthToolkit

HER Health Toolkit

Sign up for EmpowHER updates and you'll receive our
FREE HER Health Toolkit

Arthritis

Get Email Updates

Related Checklists

Arthritis Guide

Maryann Gromisch RN Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.

ASK

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!

Using a TENS Machine to Beat Arthritic Pain

By Joanna Karpasea-Jones
 
Rate This

The TENS machine was invented by a neurosurgeon called Norman Shealy. He was the first doctor to look at the issue of chronic pain and he set up the first pain management clinic, the Shealy Institute, in 1971. TENS machines have been used for back pain, sports injuries and more recently, by women in labor as an effective and drug free method of pain relief.

What is a TENS Machine?

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator. Transcutaneous means through the skin. Electrodes are placed on the skin (on the lower back area) with sticky pads. Tiny electrical impulses are then sent through the electrodes. These electrical impulses cause the body to produce endorphins, which are natural painkillers.

The impulses can be increased with a dial or push button according to your level of pain and some TENS machines also have a ‘burst’ function for sudden increases in pain. If the machine is set at a high pulse level, it can also block pain by temporarily shutting down the nerves that report pain. This is called blocking the pain gate. High electrical pulses can also feel slightly uncomfortable and mask the sensation of pain.

Is TENS Dangerous?

TENS has no known side-effects. It does have varying success. Some people report that it is very effective and has an almost morphine like effect on them, others say it doesn’t make any difference and some people are irritated by the sensation of the electrical impulses, so it’s pot luck as to how you get on with it.
People with heart conditions or a pacemaker cannot use TENS machines as it may cause a worsening of the heart condition or interruption of the pacemaker.
It also cannot be used in water or in conjunction with massage oils because if you touch the electrodes, they will stop working. Oils can also cause the sticky pads to come loose. Pregnant women should not use TENS machines unless it is for relief of labor pains.

How Can I Have TENS Machine Therapy?

Your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who may be able to arrange sessions for you with a TENS machine.

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I seem to remember Bruce Lee as the innovator of TENS and EMS for muscle building prior to 1971.

February 9, 2013 - 4:05pm
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Tags

Improved

1759 Health

Changed

665 Lives

Saved

528 Lives
1 lives impacted in the last 24 hrs Learn More

Take Our Featured Health Poll

Do your teens have their own cellphones?:
View Results