What Is TENS And When Is It Used To Treat Pain?

Question: What Is TENS And When Is It Used To Treat Pain?

Answer: TENS is another form of therapy that a physical therapist can use to help a patient manage their pain. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and essentially what a TENS pad is, is a sticky pad that will be placed on the area of injury, whether it's your low back, your shoulder, your neck, your knee, and it will provide a sensory level stimulation. What that means is the patient will experience a mild, and comfortable pins and needles or tingling sensation underneath the TENS pad or electrode that is placed on the body part. TENS is helpful in overriding some of the pain that your body is producing and your body will then interpret the tingling of pins and needles feeling rather than the actual feeling of pain. This is helpful for both acute and chronic conditions. It can be used with chronic pain to allow a person to tolerate daily activities or exercise programs that they may not be able to tolerate without the TENS pad on because of their pain. With acute conditions, you can couple it with ice and use it after therapy to help alleviate inflammation or irritation with the cold pack and just kind of calm down the area so that way the patient won't be experiencing any pain that perhaps some of the exercise or manual therapy might have caused during the session.


Laurie Sweet, P.T., Outpatient Physical Therapy, Johns Hopkins HospitalPlay

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