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Everyone experiences pain. Pain is the body telling its owner that something is wrong and needs to be corrected. Pain is proof that a person is still alive and his and her nerve endings are working properly. However, people need to manage pain to function properly on a day-to-day basis. For this purpose, tens units are very helpful. What is a tens unit anyway?
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A tens unit is a machine or device that produces electrical signals or current that can be tolerated by the body to replace pain signals or block them before they reach the brain. Using tens units or tens machines is one way of managing pain without taking painkillers or without going outside the comfort of the home for therapies or massage.
Since everyone feels pain every once in a while, it is important that every home has at least one trusty tens unit. It can be used for when the pain becomes unbearable. For instance, it can be used whenever a migraine attacks. It can also be helpful when someone at home experiences body pain from too many strenuous activities the other day.
For those thinking if getting a tens machine is really worth it, below are facts that would help anyone interested in making an informed decision on whether or not to get a tens unit for the home.
What is a Tens Unit and How Does It Work?
As aforementioned, a tens unit is a compact device that creates electrical signals for sending to the body to help with pain. However, how does it really work? What is the nitty-gritty?
It all starts with the power supply of the device. With the help of the batteries and depending on the settings used by the user, the tens unit produces electric current. This current travels from the tens unit to the electrode pads through lead wires that connect the two. The electrode pads transmit the current from the wires to the skin and to the muscles of the user prompting the nerves to “ignore” the pain signals.
Pain is only felt when the brain recognizes it. What the tens unit does, together with its peripherals, is like emitting white noise to mess up or drown the pain signals so that they will not reach the brain. Aside from this, the current also stimulates the production of the body’s natural painkillers such as endorphins.
What Are the Types of Tens Units?
Currently, there are hundreds of different kinds of tens units on the market. Some have LCD display; some have none. There are others that use touch screen technology, while other still uses buttons for the settings. Most use a pin-type connector, while a few use button connectors. Nevertheless, these devices can be categorized as follows: conventional, PENS, and high-intensity.
Conventional tens units can be used for longer periods and more frequently because they give relatively low intensity, yet high-frequency electrical signals. These produce results more quickly, but the pain relief effect does not last that long. This type of tens machine uses electrode pads that are connected to the device through a wire. The conventional tens machine is probably the most commonly used type of tens.
On the other hand, PENS or percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation devices use needles instead of electrode pads. These needles are inserted under the skin directly onto the tissues of the body to provide stronger current and more effective pain management. These are preferred by people who have chronic pain since it provides better relief since it bypasses the skin.
Lastly, high-intensity tens machines are those that are also referred to as Acupuncture-like stimulator units. It is almost the same as the conventional type; however, it gives out the higher intensity of electric current that may be uncomfortable for some people. This is also the reason why it can only be used for 15 to 20 minutes continuously. The results are not that quick to be felt, but the effect lasts longer.
Parts of a Tens Unit
There are a lot of different models of tens units and even pens units. Nevertheless, most models have the following parts:
- Output. This is where the lead wires are connected. These are usually 3.5 mm holes. Some models have dual output, while others have more. Additional outputs are provided in increments of two.
- Intensity controls. These are either buttons or touch screen icons that are used to modify the level of intensity of the stimulation.
- Type of stimulation controls. These are either buttons or touch screen icons that are used to choose the type of stimulation (e.g., acupuncture, knead, massage, etc.).
- Body parts control. These are either buttons or touch screen icons that are used to choose the type of pre-programmed setting for different body types such as feet/hand, back, shoulders, etc.
The following are optional parts:
- Charger slot. This is found in models that use rechargeable lithium batteries.
- Backlit LCD screen. This is where some of the options and settings are displayed.
- Belt clip. This is for added portability of the tens unit.
What Are the Accessories Needed?
Each tens unit need the following parts for it to deliver the much-needed pain relief:
- These are the source of the electric current. There are some tens machine models that use rechargeable lithium batteries, while others use non-rechargeable batteries. Each tens machine package usually comes with batteries included.
- Lead wires. These are thin cords that transmit electricity from the tens unit to the electrode pads or pins. These usually use 3.5 mm connectors that connect to the tens machine. The other end would have the connector that would fit the electrode pads or pins to use.
- Electrode pads. These are usually pre-gelled and self-adhering. The gel also helps with the efficient transmission of the electric current from the machine to the skin and tissues.
Tens units come in different shapes and sizes, and different features and functionalities. However, ultimately, what is a tens unit is a compact device that helps with pain management by disrupting the transmission of pain signals to the brain, and by prompting the body to produce natural painkillers.
Aside from helping with the pain, tens units also improve blood circulation in the areas it stimulates, resulting in faster healing of wounds and bruises. It works not only for chronic pain but for occasional pain felt. This is the reason why it is very important to have at least one tens unit at home.