Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses low-voltage current to relieve acute and chronic pain. It is indicated for pain relief in conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, back and neck pain, tendinitis, cancer pain, labor pain and sprains.
The TENS unit is a small battery powered device with two electrodes that are applied to the area to be treated to form a circuit with the affected nerve or nerve carrying pain signals. The appropriate intensity and manner in which the current is delivered is adjusted by your doctor. You may experience a tingling sensation as the current stimulates the nerve. It may be administered for 20 minutes to several hours, many times in a day. Your doctor may teach you how to use the TENS device by yourself. The nerve stimulation may cause the body to produce endorphins, which are natural agents that control pain and inflammation, or block pain signals to the brain.
TENS therapy may produce abnormal heart rhythms; so it should be avoided if you have a pacemaker. Occasionally, there may be skin irritation and redness over the treated area.