TENS unit question

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Elite Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 14475
   Posted 10/14/2010 3:59 PM (GMT -7)   
My PT mentioned the TENS unit to me today again.
I was having a lot of spasms and quirks today and she said, "I'd love to put the tens on you, but my boss wouldn't like it. She likes the muscles to heal on their own."
I'm confused. I thought the TENS were an important aid in the healing process. confused
Does it really help? Or is it a temporary aid like pain medicine? How bad do you have to be to get one?
I'd like to know more about it, if it really helps, and if it does help for how long do you get relief?

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2010
Total Posts : 215
   Posted 10/14/2010 4:35 PM (GMT -7)   
TENS are almost always prescription devices. However I do believe (and I could be wrong on this) that some less power models can be bought without a script.

Essentially, TENS units work by stimulating the muscle, which in turn stimulates the nerve pathway and the body's opioid defenses. For some people it does help to relax the mucles as an AFTER effect, since it produces muscle contractions at some levels. However depending on the settings (Hertz or Htz), the jolt (milliamps or MA) needs to be below the power needed for muscle contraction.

On frequencies in the 60 to 120 htz range, the MA needs to be set to feel a medium tingle but not enough to be painful or overly uncomfortable. Usually 15-20 minutes of about 8 MA at 90 htz will help activate the pain blocking channel.

On frequencies between 2 and 5 Htz range, the MA needs to be set higher. Trying setting it around 15 MA (remember if its uncomfortable, turn it down or your skin will get irritated and red arround the site). You'll need to keep it on for about 20 to 30 minutes for this one. This frequency actives beta endorphines in the body to bind to opioid receptors at the site. However, TENS are consider non addictive and relatively safe :)

It IS a temporary aid and if you turn the MA to high you can aggravate the muscles. You can also cause more pain and aggravate the muscles by keeping it on for two long. This is probably what you doc is concerned about. However TENS units do offer some relief. It is limited but it is noticable. I hope this helps.
MRI revealed a bulging disc w/gel lost at L5 and showed the bulge touching nerves, causing sciatica. Diagnosed w/ Arthritis which is responsible for joint inflamation pain. Treatment: Nucynta 50-150 mgs every 6 hours (schedule II narcotic, Mu Opoid agonist and NE reuptake inhibitor), Celebrex 100 mgs, Klonopin .5, Epidurals, Radio Freq nuerotomy (sept 8th, 2010)

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 358
   Posted 10/14/2010 5:18 PM (GMT -7)   
Well GOS said it all a lot better than I could have, but I love my tens! I also agree that you only use it for 20 to 30 minutes at most and turn it up just enough to feel it but never enough to make your muscles jump because if that happens, you will certainly regret it! I was offered a script for a tens my first week in PM which has been 3 years now. After PT they always use the tens unless you have one at home.
I hope in some small way this helps clarify anything you wondered or at least gave you another opinion not that they are terribly different.
Good Luck,
DX’d-Syringomyelia C-1 to T-1, DDD, Diabetes Type II, Migraines, Chronic Muscle Spasms, IBS, Panic Disorder, ICC, Hypothyroidism, Bipolar Disorder, Fibromyalgia. Emergency surgery for ruptured bowel in '05 w/colostomy and takedown in '06. Frozen Shoulder and Torn Rotator Cuff in Left Shoulder. Surgery for shoulder recently, now in Physical Therapy.

Black Satin Phoenix
Regular Member

Date Joined Oct 2010
Total Posts : 40
   Posted 10/14/2010 5:36 PM (GMT -7)   
I agree Stac/Catz4! GrainofSalt explained TENS VERY well! Thank you for answering all my questions pertaining to it! Much appreciated :-)

My doctor actually is putting a request for me to get an at home model with all the supplies. He was shocked (no pun intended) that I have never EVER had one of my own with my RSD.

Couchtater....I hope that it all works out for you & relieves SOME pain!

Elite Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 14475
   Posted 10/14/2010 6:34 PM (GMT -7)   
Thank you, guys. All of this is so new to me. I'm tired of the painful spasms, but I'm trying to do this without strong pain killers or muscle relaxers. I want to strengthen my back so I won't have so many spasms.
I have trouble with pain meds. They slow my digestion down something terrible.
And muscle relaxants cause vision issues and makes me so sleepy.
I'm trying to do release stretches, rest, and heat to deal with the pain.
I'm grateful that my spasms don't hit me until 11:00 am. That's midway through my day. The hardest working part of the day is in the mornings for me. By lunch I'm on my heating pad grunting.

Black Satin Phoenix
Regular Member

Date Joined Oct 2010
Total Posts : 40
   Posted 10/14/2010 7:53 PM (GMT -7)   

I totally understand how you are feeling! I have been on SO many muscle relaxers that it's NOT funny! All of them seemed to make me dizzy or feel SO sick to my stomach or hardly could concentrate on ANYTHING! I am now on Valium & it helps to calm my nerves and the spasms without any of the side effects. Maybe you should talk to your doctor about that. Even if its a small dose to get you through your day. And maybe with the addition of the TENS unit you will be able to get some kind of relief before & after work so that you aren't in agony on your lunch break.

Take care of yourself.

~Black Satin Phoenix~

New Member

Date Joined Oct 2010
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 10/14/2010 9:55 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi, I'm new to the forum but I can tell you about TENS.  It is electrical stimulation of the muscles using a small unit that has leads that attach with sticky pads to the areas where you are hurting.  It doesn't make the muscle heal so much as it is a soothing distraction to the muscles involved.  You can set it on different modes  that act like, say...a pounding massage, or accupressure, or a rhythmic push. I have a small unit that I can clip to my belt, plus I have a jacket that has preset patches for my middle back.
Oh, my symptoms are shooting pains in my lower back from disk degeneration, cervical pain from the same thing, bursa pain in my right shoulder and right butt, and cramping in my hands and feet and legs that resemble charley horses. That plus a healthy dose of arthristis that has affected almost all the joints in my body.
TENS units are geat to have in your arsenal when medication just doesn't cut it,  Good luck.  Try one they don't hurt you from what I have learned.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9657
   Posted 10/15/2010 7:33 AM (GMT -7)   
When I use my tens, I usually pair it up with a moist heat pad..
as the combination of the stim and added heat heats, make sure to
keep a towel between your tens and the moist heat pad ...
Hope this info helps...In PT they use a hot pad with a tens unit
usually after the ultra sound treatment...
Hope you can get a low pain day soon...
Sometimes you need a script for a tens, but amazon also has them..
I have 2 one my PT gave me and one I got from amazon, they feel the same
to me...Just type in Portable Tens ...
* Asthma, Allergies, Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis, Degenative Disc (Lower Lumbar S1-L3 and Cervical C5,C6, C8 and T1), Fibromyalgia, Gerd,
Enlarged Pituitary Gland, Sjogren's, Ocular Migraines, mild carpel tunnel, ect.... "Would be nice if we could use the edit button in real life"...


Elite Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 14475
   Posted 10/15/2010 4:27 PM (GMT -7)   
Thank you. Today was a low pain day for me. My pain danced around a 2 today. No big spikes! :)
Unfortunately, my allergies have me wheezing and my eyes burning and itching today. The wind is blowing a lot and stirring up the ragweed in the area. Plus some sadist decided today to start burning their leaves, even though they are just beginning to fall.
I hate allergies!

Black Satin Phoenix
Regular Member

Date Joined Oct 2010
Total Posts : 40
   Posted 10/15/2010 9:30 PM (GMT -7)   
Yay for low pain days! Glad to hear it was a good day for you!

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2015
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 12/1/2015 7:52 AM (GMT -7)   
I have been dealing with chronic pain for years from 15 surgeries I have been through. From quadruple bypass to multiple spine operations. I would get the worst pain from under my shoulder bones (scapula). My muscles were being commanded by my nerves that are over the facets. I have had RF ablation to burn these nerves that worked great. Problem is the nerves you need to grow back like to my tricep muscle I lost due to the nerve being crushed which Drs kept looking at my left shoulder. By the time they figured it was my spine the nerve died. That won't grow back but the nerves you don't want to grow back do like the ones that caused the muscles that balled up. I'm getting to the tens story just wanted u to know its been pretty bad before I found what it can do. Up to date now I got a slap tear in my shoulder and another tear deeper. I had the surgery and first two days no pain because they do a nerve block and send u home with a portable pain med they direct to the area via small tube. After the 3 day the pain was real bad and it takes a long time to heal. Come to find out that somehow by my arm being held in one position caused that scapula muscle to be constantly contracted again. My wife could feel the balled up muscle. This is what was causing me the most pain, not the surgery. I went to rehab a few times by the time I found this out. I told them at rehab and they hooked me up to a tens machine to see if it would help. Omg I don't know how to describe the feeling easy. It was great be caused it cause the muscle to flex and move with pain but a great pain that kind of made the pain different. You can't rub this muscle because it's under the scalpula so this was wonderful. After 20 min I left to go home. That night I noticed that the pain was noticeably less and my wife felt back there and said it was still there but like 3/4 less in size. I had them do this every time I went for my slap tear physical theropy. It was great but when it seemed not to do much more we stopped. Yes now I notice the pain from just the surgery now so I went to Amazon ($20 cheaper than Walgreens) bought it for about $40. I wear it as much as I can not only to keep that scapula muscle from coming back but I swear my arm pain and Arm movement they said would take 4 months for me to get back to full work is healing so much faster. It's only been since October 21 st I had it done and my shoulder can move in all directions. I do this very slow and I know my doctor and theropy people would kill me but I never believed in babying all my surgery. I was digging a hole for a tree 4 days after my bypass. Stupid yes but your body can tell you what's to much. To wrap it up I love my Omron tens machine. Has 9 modes and I love the knead and rub mode. I have no doubt that my arm is healing much faster than had I done nothing. Thank god for that technology

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 15160
   Posted 12/1/2015 9:18 AM (GMT -7)   
Hello & welcome to the chronic pain forum. Glad you found us but sorry you have chronic pain too. Tducksoup you have posted on a thread that is a little over 5 years old. You may not be aware that you brought up such an old thread.

We do ask all new members to make a separate intro post so that all members will see it & be able to say hello & welcome aboard. A lot of the members do not read these older threads & will not see your post.

If you can copy & paste what you have written above it will make a perfect intro post. I will lock this thread so no one else posts here. Look forward to getting to know you.
Moderator Chronic Pain & Psoriasis Forums
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