About Electro-Medical Therapy

The application of electro-medical therapy is not a new concept. Its therapeutic value was recognized long before William Gilbert defined electricity in 1600. Both Aristotle and Plato refer to the Black Torpedo (electric ray fish) prescribed in 46 A.D. by the physician Scribonius Largus for the relief of a variety of medical conditions from headaches to gout. In the 1800's dentists reported excellent results using crude electrical devices for pain control. By the turn of this century, electrical devices were in widespread use to manage pain and "cure" everything from cancer to impotency.

In 1965 Drs. Ronald Melzack of Canada and Patrick Wall of the U.K. published a paper explaining a new comprehensive theory, known as the Gate Control Theory, of how pain is processed by our nervous systems. This theory also explained how electrical stimulation can influence the physiology of pain. By 1967 electrical devices were surgically implanted to control severe low back pain. Shortly thereafter, surface electrical units were used to test the person's response as a means of screening suitable surgical candidates. It was soon discovered that these surface electrical stimulators were also effective and they could be used for the relief of pain without the surgery. Since then, these devices, known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators (TENS), have become widely accepted by physicians to control most forms of pain.

Frequently Asked Questions about TENS

What is TENS?

TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is a small "beeper size" device that clips on a belt. It operates on a volt battery and is used as a method of pain relief and rehabilitation enhancement. TENS has been approved by the FDA. It is prescribed by licensed physicians and is reimbursed by most insurance companies.

Body Pads connect to the TENS Unit at CH 1 and CH2


What kinds of pain respond to TENS?

Pain that warns us of external danger and internal illness serves a useful purpose. But the chronic and acute pain associated with long-term illness, surgical incisions, and unknown diagnoses do not provide insight into illness, and therefore should be relieved. TENS is an excellent, non-drug alternative for chronic pain such as lower-back ache and arthritis. It is also useful in relieving acute pain associated with surgery, traumatic injury, and other conditions.


How can TENS relieve pain?

TENS can relieve pain by blocking the pain message sent by the body's nervous system. This is accomplished by placing electrodes over the painful area and administering a low-volt electrical current. The current overrides the nervous system's message of pain, thereby blocking it.


Does TENS treatment have any risks or side effects?

Unlike surgery or prescription drugs, TENS is virtually risk free from injury, side-effects or addiction. The low-volt electrical current delivered by the electrodes only penetrates the skin to the level of the nerve fibers, usually only one to two inches. This poses no danger to most individuals. However, those with cardiac conditions and/or pacemakers, and pregnant women should consult their doctors before using TENS. Also, neck and head pain that requires locating electrodes on these areas of the body should be conducted only with the consent of a physician. Use caution when you drive or operate heavy machinery. Most importantly, always use TENS according to your physicians directions.


What is the most effective way to use TENS?

To achieve the best results of TENS therapy, it is important to remember that TENS merely activates the body's own pain-fighting mechanism. Placing electrodes directly over or around the painful area delivers pain-blocking current to the nerves leading to that area. Some healthcare professionals have found that placing the electrodes along acupuncture points is also effective. Also, it is good to vary the placement of the electrodes each treatment to avoid skin irritation.

How long does it take for TENS treatment to produce results?

In most cases, studies show that it takes roughly 30 minutes for TENS treatment to begin to relieve pain. However, for conventional, high-frequency TENS treatment, there is no set treatment limit. Some patients find hours of pain relief from short 30-to-60 minute sessions. Others use their TENS units for several hours a day or all day, depending on the pain generated by daily activities. Always use your TENS unit according to your physician's directions.


When can TENS treatment be administered?

TENS can be administered any time of day or night. It is recommended that TENS not be used while sleeping. This is simply because movement during sleep may cause electrodes to come off or be pressed into the flesh, causing skin irritation. However, always use your TENS unit according to your physician's directions.


Indications for use of TENS

Systemic Pain

Multiple Sclerosis
Phantom Limb Syndrome
Raynaud's Syndrome
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

Head and Neck Pain

Cluster Headaches
Dental Disorders
Migraine Headaches
Suboccipital Headaches
TMJ Syndrome
Trigeminal Neuralgia

Abdominal Pain

Postoperative Pain

Back Pain

Facet Syndrome
Intercoastal Neuralgia
IVD Syndrome
Lumbosacral Pain
Whole Back Pain

Lower Extremity Pain

Ankle Pain
Foot Pain
Knee Pain
Passive Stretch Pain

Upper Extremity Pain

Frozen Shoulder
Hand Pain
Peripheral Nerve Injury
Subdeltoid Bursitis
Wrist Pain



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