Studies have shown that Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) can be an effective way to reduce pain caused by nerve damage, particularly in the hands and feet. In fact, three studies on TENS and pain from spinal cord injury have demonstrated improvements in this type of pain, which is notoriously difficult to treat. How does it work? Electrical impulses can reduce the pain signals that reach the spinal cord and brain, which can help to relieve pain and relax muscles. Additionally, they can stimulate the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. It's important to note that TENS does not cure pain and often only provides short-term relief while using the TENS machine.
However, it is a research-backed option that is incredibly effective in treating migraines. It can also help reduce pain and fatigue in many people who suffer from fibromyalgia, without the many side effects that prescription medications bring. In many cases, pain also leads to a decrease in activity levels, which in turn leads to longer healing times. In a randomized, controlled trial with 301 patients with fibromyalgia, 44% of those who used TENS unitary therapy experienced significant pain relief compared to patients who weren't using the therapy. Additionally, another 29% of TENS users reported at least a 30% reduction in pain and a decrease in fatigue levels.
You can use TENS all day long for as long as you want, but you shouldn't use it while driving, operating machinery, or taking a bath or shower. Used on the outside of the body, TENS units are considered non-invasive and safe for use in people with pain. The mild tingling sensation provided by the TENS unit replaces pain, allowing you to participate in physical therapy and other active treatments to relieve pain. You can choose to buy your own TENS machine without consulting a doctor, but it's usually best to get a proper evaluation first, so that you can find out if a TENS machine is right for you and learn how to use it correctly.