How to Use the TENS Unit for Arthritis Pain

How to Use the TENS Unit for Arthritis Pain
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What’s TENS? TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Basically, it’s a digital battery-operated pain management device which looks more like an MP4 player.

The greatest benefit of TENS is it allows you to manage arthritis pain effectively without the use of drugs. It’s also a portable device you can easily carry with you to ready yourself for the unexpected moment when pain strikes. All you have to do is apply the electrode patches to the skin area where pain emanates and turn the device on. You can easily wear TENS around the waist so that you could be engaged in another activity.

Let it be known that this device is not meant to rid pain permanently. It’s there to help you better manage pain. You should consult a health care provider before thinking of using a TENS unit for arthritis pain.

How TENS Work

Pain is part of the body’s defense system. It’s a way of warning us that something is not right or there’s a condition lurking which needs attention. When pain occurs, the nerve endings in our bodies called nociceptors transmit the ‘pain signal’ to our brain. We don’t feel pain until the signal reaches the cortex area of the brain.

The body has its own built-in system of pain management made possible by the endorphins and encephalins produced by the body. They act as pain-suppressing agents and act to weaken the pain signal.

The main function of a TENS unit is to hinder or block the pain signal from reaching the cortex. When this is accomplished, the patient does not become aware of the pain. The second function of the device is to send electrical impulses to the body to help it produce extra endorphins and encephalins. As to how far the second function is effective in pain relief still remains debatable in the medical community.

TENS Caution

Patients using pacemakers or defibrillators should stay away from TENS because the electrical current from it could interfere with the smooth working of these devices. Those with metal plates or pins inserted in their bodies should avoid it, too.

TENS would also not be suitable for those with cardiac disease, diabetes or epilepsy. It’s also a no-no for patients with abnormally high blood pressure.

Pregnant women should consult their doctors before using a TENS unit.


At the time of writing TENS is available at Amazon for $40..You would want to consult your doctor and get a prescription before deciding on a purchase. Most health insurance schemes provide reimbursement for the purchase of the device. Check to see if yours does.

References - basic information on TENS - risks involved in using TENS