Back pain is a common condition that can affect people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is estimated that 80% of adults will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. When back pain becomes chronic, it can negatively impacts a person’s physical and emotional well-being, making even the most routine tasks difficult. While some cases of back pain are minor and resolve on their own, others are severe and incapacitating. There are many ways to treat pain these days but have you ever heard of TENS?
What is TENS?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), is a pain-relieving therapeutic technique that uses low-level electrical currents to stimulate nerves. The electrical impulses are send to the surface of the skin by a battery-powered device using electrodes which are placed on or near the nerves where pain is located or at trigger points. This non-invasive pain relief therapy is then able to block and change perception of pain.
TENS has a long history dating back to the early 1970s, when the first clinical trials were conducted to investigate its efficacy in managing chronic pain. The technology has advanced significantly over the years, and it is now widely used in physical therapy, rehabilitation, and pain management. TENS devices are now small, portable, and simple to use, making them available to patients who want to manage their pain without the use of medication.
How does it help with back pain?
There are several theories as to how TENS therapy is able to reduce pain, enhance muscle function and improve mobility.
- Gate Control Theory: According to this theory, TENS stimulates large sensory nerve fibers that carry non-painful sensations to the brain, which can help to “close the gate” on pain signals carried by smaller nerve fibers.
- Endorphin Release Theory: TENS therapy has also been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body. Endorphins can help to alleviate pain while also encouraging feelings of relaxation and well-being.
- Central Nervous System Modulation Theory: TENS therapy can also influence how the brain processes pain signals. It can help to modify the way pain signals are transmitted and processed by the brain by stimulating the nerves in the affected area, which can lead to pain reduction.
- Muscle Stimulation Theory: TENS therapy can stimulate the muscles in the affected area, which helps to reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow. This is particularly beneficial for back pain caused by muscle strain or injury.
Is TENS safe?
TENS therapy is generally considered to be safe for treating back pain. It is a non-invasive treatment that does not involve the use of drugs, making it a low-risk option for pain management. It should, however, only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional, as misuse or overuse can cause skin irritation or discomfort. This form of therapy is also not recommended for people who have certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy or heart problems, or for use during pregnancy. It is also important to take precautions when applying electrodes to the body in order to avoid placing them over areas of broken skin, as well as near the eyes or throat.
There are several reasons why TENS can be an effective treatment option for treating back pain. It provides pain relief, muscle relaxation an increased release of endorphins and above all, it is a non-invasive treatment option which can be used in conjunction with other treatments such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, and medications. As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see further improvements, making it even more effective and convenient for patients. If you are suffering from back pain, please consider consulting your physician to see if TENS is a viable treatment option for you.
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