What is a TENS Unit?

what-is-a-tens-unitA TENS unit is a pain management device that uses electrical impulses to stimulate nerve fibers to relieve chronic and acute musculoskeletal pain. There are several TENS unit models, each with different characteristics. Some are analog, others are digital, some have 3 treatment modes, others have five or more, some are handheld, and others are larger. However, there are certain elements that are common to all TENS units, such as electrode pads and lead wires. We can take a closer look at what makes a TENS machine tick, but let us not lose sight of the fact that when you ask ‘what is a TENS unit?,’ the truest answer is that it’s more than just the sum of its parts. 
The actual TENS unit is what generates the electrical current and where the controls are that allow the user to set the intensity levels, the timer, and the treatment modes. The lead wires and electrode pads are sort of peripherals to the TENS unit. They are connected to the device and attached to the part of the body to be electrically stimulated. TENS therapy regulates the nerves’ perception of pain so that cease sending pain signals to the brain and spinal cord. Though the impulses actually go through the skin and into the nerves, TENS is completely non-invasive and drug-free.


What that means is that TENS may be used instead of, or simultaneously with pain medication without fear of drug interactions. Most TENS devices come with a safety amplitude cap that ensures that any given current settings are not accidentally changed. A doctor may pre-select the settings depending on the patient’s particular circumstances, or he may reset them according to patient’s reaction to treatment. While a doctor’s supervision is invaluable, TENS units also offer users a lot of freedom concerning application. 
From a technical perspective, that should cover the ‘what is a TENS unit’ question. Nonetheless, there is also a deeper meaning. What a TENS unit means to scores of people is relief, relief from pain caused by crippling conditions like arthritis, or sports injuries, or post-operatory pains. It also means a speedier recovery and the ability to get one’s life back on track. If we put it that way, people who experience pain may be more interested in what a TENS unit means that in what it is, but the fact remains that it’s just as important to know how something works, and not just that it works. And in this case, you can believe that it does.

Related Read: How to TENS Unit Pad Placement?