Does Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Promote Healing?

If you have suffered from acute or chronic pain—including tendinitis, bursitis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia or recurrent back pain—you may have been treated with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This frequently used treatment is widely considered safe for many conditions. In fact, you may have even seen inexpensive units marketed for home use. Can at-home electrical stimulation be the ticket to safe, effective relief for low-back pain? The most likely answer: not completely.

What does transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation do?

TENS units use electrical stimulation and electrothermal therapy to deliver short-term pain relief by placing electrodes on the skin and delivering a low-voltage electrical current. While researchers are not sure how the therapy relieves pain, they believe the electricity stimulates nerves, confusing the brain and blocking pain signals from getting through.

These units can be purchased for at-home use, and they can be effective in the short term for many conditions. However, they are not a substitute for addressing the root cause of pain. Simply controlling pain is rarely the best course of treatment. In fact, after reviewing studies on the treatment of low-back pain lasting three months or longer, the official position of the American Academy of Neurology is that TENS has not been shown to be effective at reducing chronic low-back pain.

Talk to us before you purchase an at-home TENS unit. If you suffer from low-back pain or another ailment, make an appointment so we can assess your symptoms and the causes of your pain. The most effective long-term treatment will almost always include a course of exercises that you can perform at home.

We can design an individualized program of strengthening and stretching exercises, and guide you through the exercises here in our office. Performing these regularly will not only speed recovery but also keep your muscles, joints and discs healthy, lessening the chance of future back-pain episodes.

January PTEDigest Includes:
Exercise Helps Control Asthma
Can TENS Relieve Low-back Pain?
Build Up Your Middle to Reduce Knee Pain
Laying Down a New Surface on Your Shoulder

Download PTEDigest January