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Do We Have Pain?
Pain is the body's warning system. It alerts us to injury or illness. When the
body is functioning normally, pain serves as a vital warning sign when something
is not right. Without pain a person would not know when to get away from danger
or to seek medical help. Pain signals in the form of electrical impulses,
travel through the body's nervous system from the site of the injury or ailment
to the brain. Then, at the brain, these impulses are interpreted as pain.
What Is T.E.N.S.?
T.E.N.S. stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Pain, whether
chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term, often from surgery or trauma), can be
relieved through a variety of methods including drugs, topical ointments,
surgery, and electrical stimulation. T.E.N.S. devices deliver mild electrical
pulses through the skin to stimulate the cutaneous (surface) and afferent (deep)
nerves to help control pain. Unlike drugs or topical ointments, T.E.N.S. does
not have any known side effects.
How Does T.E.N.S. Control Pain?
There are two major theories as to how electrical stimulation relieves pain.
According to the "gate control theory" pain and non-pain impulses are sent to
the brain from the local nervous system. These impulses travel through the
cutaneous nerves to the deeper afferent nerves and then to the spinal cord and
brain. Along the path are many areas referred to as "gates." These gates control
which impulses are allowed to continue to the brain. The gates prevent the brain
from receiving too much information too quickly. Since the same nerve cannot
carry a pain impulse and a non-pain impulse simultaneously, the stronger,
non-pain impulse (from the T.E.N.S. device) "controls the gate," and basically
over rides the pain signal, resulting in less pain perception. According to the
second theory, T.E.N.S. stimulation encourages one's body to produce and release
greater amounts of a chemical called endorphin. Endorphins are our body's own
natural painkillers that are released as a natural function to overcome pain.
Endorphins interact with pain receptors, blocking the perception of pain, much
as the pharmaceutical drugs or a narcotic such as morphine does, but without the
side effects associated with these types of drugs. T.E.N.S. has no curative
value; however, for many people who are suffering from pain due to an injury or
ailment, the use of T.E.N.S. can help manage their pain considerably. Pain
suffers who have not been able to find relief from drugs or who may have
experienced uncomfortable side effects from drugs, may find T.E.N.S. to be a
great alternative in controlling the pain. In today's fast-paced lifestyle, many
people just do not have the time to be set back due to pain. T.E.N.S. devices
can help them control and manage their pain, so that they may still be able to
perform their daily functions at home or at work, return to work sooner, or
perhaps enjoy more activities than they have before.
Advantages of T.E.N.S.
There are a number of advantages of T.E.N.S. which makes it appealing to both
the clinician and the patient.
T.E.N.S. is a non-evasive device.
It is portable.
T.E.N.S. is user friendly and safe to be used by the patient at home. It
therefore offers the patient a self-management option -- a desirable aspect of
any treatment program since this has been shown to increase patient compliance
and response to treatment.
After the initial cost of purchasing a T.E.N.S. device, the replacement of
batteries and electrodes are the main running costs. In long-standing cases of
pain, this is cheaper than regular prescriptions for analgesics.
The precautions and contradictions associated with T.E.N.S. are few and largely
based on common sense. In addition, side-effects are minimal (i.e. skin
T.E.N.S. is non-addictive
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