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EMPOWERING YOU TO LIVE A VIBRANT, ACTIVE LIFE THAT OUTSHINES CHRONIC PAIN

Secrets to TENS Unit

By: Karl Zarse, MD

The TENS unit is a great device for treating pain and injuries that are often overlooked.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a method of pain relief involving the use of a mild electrical current. The device is battery operated and attaches to two sticky pads that are electrodes. The pads attach directly to your skin and deliver an electrical current through the skin to the tissue below.

There are a lot of theories on how the TENS unit works. Spinal cord stimulators are widely used in pain management, and these work by delivering electricity over the spinal cord which then modulates the pain signals and reduces pain. TENS may be doing the same thing through the skin directly to the affected area. It also helps increase blood flow to the area, promoting healing and decreasing pain.

It has been used for years and has no known side effects. It can be used on all sorts of pain including nerve pain, tendinitis, and muscle injuries.

Using this device is simple. Take the two gel pads and apply it across the area you want to treat. I have a spot on my mid back that is a chronic injury about the size of my palm. I place the pads at the top and bottom of the area I want to treat, keeping it over the muscle and avoiding bony prominences. Then you slowly turn up the intensity until you feel the slightest buzzing.

Next you want to cycle through the different modes. The one I have is burst, ST1, ST2, and continuous. Each mode puts out different patterns of stimulation. Chose the one that feels most comfortable to you, dial up the intensity until it feels a little uncomfortable, and then dial it back to comfortable. The device will shut off on its own or you can stop the treatment at any time.

You can use this device while you are working, sitting, driving, etc. It feels like a mild electrical massage and my patients have had great benefit from this simple device.

If you are a lifelong athlete you definitely have some chronic injuries that need regular attention. The TENS unit is a great tool to add to your fitness program and will help keep those injuries in check and promote healing along the way.

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