What is TENS treatment?
- TENS is an abbreviation for Transcutaneous Electrical Neuro Stimulation and indicates that weak electrical currents are applied through the skin (transcutaneous). The influence of these weak electrical currents on the nerves (neuro) helps to decrease the pain.
- TENS helps to decrease the pain, but does not remove its source as such.
- TENS treatment is given through two small electric wires that are connected to a device containing batteries. Little plates (electrode), which can be glued the skin, are attached to the ends of these wires. These electrodes deliver the weak electrical currents through the skin. One can adapt the strength of these electrical currents yourself by using the battery-containing device.
- A pain nurse will explain how to use the device and to position the electrodes.
- The electrodes can be positioned either on the painful spot or outside it, close to the nerves that are related to the area of pain.
- Since the patient will always have the TENS device with him, it has the advantage that he can use it anywhere inside or outside the home (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Example of a TENS device with electrodes.
Is TENS harmful?
- Even though TENS has been proved to be a safe treatment of pain and has no side effects, patients are advised not to use it if they are pregnant.
- This is also the case if the patient has a skin disease or if, for some other reason, he wears a pacemaker.
- If the patient has any doubts about using TENS, please let him contact the pain nurse at our pain clinic.
- It is possible that the patient could become allergic to the electrode glue. If this occurs, the patient should stop using TENS straight away and contact the pain nurse at our pain clinic.
How is TENS prescribed?
- TENS treatment always has to be prescribed by a pain specialist, who will fill in on the relevant forms the exact location of where the electrodes should be glued.
- An appointment will be made with the pain nurse who will explain how TENS should be used, as well as its daily frequency.
- The patient will be given a TENS device for a trial period of six weeks in order to see what effect it has on his pain.
- The pain nurse will evaluate this effect after six weeks.
- If TENS has a positive effect on the patient's pain, the pain nurse will ask patient's health care insurance company for permission to go over to a permanent device.
- An appointment will be made with patient's pain specialist after four weeks to evaluate TENS treatment.
- In case of the trial period with TENS proven ineffective, the pain nurse will advise the patient to make an appointment with his own pain specialist.