How Does the TENS Unit Work?

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Nothing mysterious happens using TENS. You will feel impulses known as ‘pulses’ that stimulate the nerve endings causing pain. Depending on the person, pain can be reduced or eliminated. Find the mode on your and adjust the functions according to your personal condition.

A lower frequency stimulations is termed acupuncture and might be somewhat uncomfortable and is tolerated for 20 to 30 minutes; however, pain relief is for a much longer time. The higher frequency is standard and is bearable for hours yet the pain relief is for a shorter time. You will determine what is best for your pain after using a few times.

With the unit’s pads attached to your skin surface, you can decide on whether you want to purchase a unit with a large amount of power output or one of the small battery powered hand-held or even desktop-sized units. Some units can be put in a pocket or attached with a belt clip.

Units are single or dual channel. The two-cannels allow you to cover more body areas. The dual channel devices have variations in pulse width from 40-260 and impulse rates from 2-150. The treatment session can be timed from 30-60 minutes or constant with the timer mode. Units can have a lithium battery, 9-Volt, or AAA-sized batteries, and some are only electric. Some units have carrying cases and some do not.

The pads have an adhesive gel so that you do not have to use lotions, gels, or oils for attachment. The pre-applied gel from the manufacturer increases the conductivity from the electrodes to your skin surface. You will need to use an alcohol swab or alcohol from a bottle with cotton to clean the area to be treated. The pads stick better and work better when there are no body oils, dirt, or perspiration on the surface.

The pulses produced by the portable stimulator treats pain. Usually 2-6 electrodes are attached to the self-adhesive pads and attached to the area needing treatment. The TENS units are battery operated with different battery sizes noted above. The unit regulates frequency, Intensity, and pulse width. These frequencies can be low at less than 10 Hz or greater than 50 Hz. The unit operates at a high frequency with its intensity below motor (muscle) contraction, i.e., intense perception, or low frequency where the perception is felt as a slight motor (muscle) contraction. It is felt as a contraction followed by relaxation, then contraction, and continues in that sequence. The sensation is a mild tingling effect, is soothing, and reduces pain and tight muscles from over activity or strain.

Pain is reduced at nerve endings to minimize diabetes neuropathy, tension and migraine headaches, pain associated with cancer, inflammation, spinal pain conditions, range of motion will increase, and sleeping will be improved.

Differences Between TENS and EMS Units

Both units use low voltage (microamps) electrical impulses to stimulate body areas. A TENS unit stimulates the nerve endings while the EMS unit stimulates the muscles. Electrical energy in microamps (μA) means that the TENS unit uses impulses from 50 to 1000 μA. EMS electrical impulses range from 1 to 30 μA. This is technical electrical information that simply means this low amount of current is beneficial but is not similar to an electrical shock. The devices are beneficial for relief from acute and chronic pain and EMS units are good for muscles. Dual units are available and those with chronic pain use both for best results. Therefore, the reduction of pain using the TENS and the stimulation of muscles at the cell level provides the best of both worlds. You will want a professional to monitor you to be sure the electrodes are placed correctly and that you are using the proper signal. The electrodes vary with their placement with each treatment.

EMS units are used for many conditions to include:

  • Rehabilitation purposes
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Relaxation of muscles
  • Preventing disuse muscle atrophy
  • Increasing local blood circulation
  • Cosmetic facial muscle toning

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