Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation
TENS units offer several advantanges for pain management: they are drug-free, relatively economical (a very expensive TENS unit can be used for years, so the cost per year is low even though the price is high), and the patient can individualize and customize usage for optimum effect.
One disadvantage is that the human nervous system inevitably begins to accomodate to the TENS. When this happens, the pain increases. There are various ways to combat accomodation:
- Some TENS units come with sophisticated controls, in which the unit automatically varies both the frequency and the amplitude of the electric pulse. Because the TENS signal is always slightly changing, it takes the body longer to accomodate.
- Even with a very simple TENS unit, the patient can create variations in order to avoid accomodation. Simply turning the unit off for five minutes once an hour can interrupt the process of accomodation. Changing the placement of electrodes from time to time does much the same. Finally, it is good to use the unit at the lowest possible signal strength which gives pain relief; the stronger the signal, the quicker the accomodation process.
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