What are they and why do they help?
A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit can be used for pain control. Pads are attached to the skin where pain is felt and the unit is turned on. It often feels like a vibration and may result in muscle contraction.
This method of pain control works on a few different principles. The main principle is using the gate control theory. This machine is able to send these vibration signals to the brain and stop the pain signals that were previously being sent. It is often very beneficial for acute pain relief.
This conversation may sound like the acupuncture discussion as they use similar theories.
The theory that I like to discuss is the gate control theory. When pain occurs, it is how your brain perceives the signals from the rest of your body that results in pain. When an injury occurs, the area sends these pain signals to the brain and the body feels pain.
The key to these kinds of modalities is to send different signals to the brain so the brain interprets things differently. This is the same as when you were a kid and you hit your knee or foot on something and the reaction is always to rub the area. That rubbing is sending different signals to the brain and decreasing the pain signals. According to the gate control theory, the rubbing can overtake the pain signals and decrease the amount of pain that the brain perceives.
A TENS unit plays on this theory to send signals to the brain that will alter the signals that the brain is getting. It is very good for immediate pain relief when there is a flare-up of a condition.
As for pad placement, most TENS units do come with an easy guide of where to put the pads. There are normally two leads, and each lead has two pads. The pads of the same lead will send an electric current to one another. This often feels like a bit of a vibration and may result in some muscle contraction. It is this stimulus that can result in the desired pain relief.
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