TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This device that sends electric signals through the skin to stimulate nerves and help with medical conditions. It is commonly used in physical therapy to treat pain associated with muscle spasms and muscle weakness.

There is evidence that TENS units can provide temporary relief from inflammation in the joints of people who have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, it has been shown to reduce inflammation levels more effectively than ibuprofen 800mg every 6 hours for six weeks. Studies performed by different companies show that long-term use of TENS units may be a conveniently affordable alternative for patients experiencing chronic pain from other conditions such as cancer or diabetes.

How Do Tens Units Work to Help With Inflammation?

The TENS unit sends signals to the central nervous system, which stops the pain signal before it reaches the brain. The signals are carried through wires attached to electrodes placed on or near the area experiencing pain. This works because nerves that carry pain are also sensitive to electrical impulses. The signal sent by the TENS unit attempts to block out any pain signals making it feel like numbness in that area. Many people report relief after using a TENS unit. Still, it is hard to determine whether the relief was due to an actual reduction in inflammation or simply a placebo effect where they believed it would work, so they felt better after using it. Because the device can be so discreet and easy to use, some people report feeling more comfortable and less self-conscious about the pain. Due to the lack of scientific research and long-term testing, there is not enough evidence to say whether or not TENS units help with inflammation. Some studies are showing a more profound improvement in arthritis patients. However, this could be due to the placebo effect of simply believing they were feeling better because of it. Studies show TENS units do not show any measurable benefit in patients suffering from certain types of cancer. They suggest that TENS units may work best with chronic non-cancer-related pain conditions such as arthritis.

Benefits of Tens Units:

Other than helping with inflammation, TENS units have several other advantages, uses and benefits. Some of them are described below:

Nerve Retraining

When a particular area of the body is in pain for a prolonged period, the brain will begin to map out which areas hurt and which areas don’t. This can cause problems when starting rehab because the brain then associates that area that hurts with the pain signals. To avoid this, it is often suggested to use a TENS unit in conjunction with physical therapy. Using this device helps retrain the brain and reassign any painful areas as “do not hurt” zones.

No Side Effects

Some patients suffer from nausea, constipation, or diarrhea when taking pain-relieving medications such as ibuprofen. Many medications used to treat inflammation come with many different side effects. They can even compromise other medications that the patient may be taking for different conditions. This makes finding a reasonable treatment option much more difficult for patients in need. With TENS units, there are no known side effects associated with them. It makes them a much more viable option when compared to the traditional methods of treating pain.


Many of the medications prescribed for pain management are not covered by insurance. It means they are much more expensive than they would if purchased OTC. Not only are they more expensive, but most of them come with a host of different side effects. Patients in chronic pain often have to take these medications for extended amounts of time, putting a strain on their budget and health. TENS units are much less expensive and do not come with the potential for serious side effects, making them a much more practical option for treating patients in need. TENS units can be used at home without fear of harmful side effects or interactions when taking OTC medications.

Can be Used as a Massage

TENS units often come with two electrodes which can also be used to stimulate other areas of the body. Using the device as a massage unit allows patients to reap the same benefits as traditional physical therapy without feeling self-conscious and embarrassed about their pain and inflammation symptoms.

Super Easy to Use

What makes TENS units so unique is that they can be so easily used by anyone, at any time and anywhere. Patients with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis find it much easier to take them with them when they go out of town visiting family or vacationing. With no awkward trips to the pharmacy or trips to the doctor needed, these units are much more accessible than those that require a prescription or appointment with a doctor.

Pain Relief Drug-Free

Many patients suffer from pain that is hard to manage with the typical medications prescribed by doctors. TENS units are non-addictive, meaning the patient will not experience drastic changes in their body. They are also much more affordable since they do not have to be taken for extended periods, making them much more cost-effective.

Thousands of Uses

Because they can be used as a massage unit and as a unit to relieve pain, the uses of TENS units run on a much larger scale than those of traditional pain-relieving medications and treatments such as surgery and physical therapy programs. Patients who use TENS units report that they relieve pain and help with circulation, increase blood flow to the area, and even help with insomnia. Physical therapists often use them during treatment sessions to help patients relax and open up about their conditions allowing the physical therapist to get past the psychological barriers that may be holding them back from making progress.

All Natural

The number one goal for many patients suffering from pain is getting past the psychological barriers associated with it. There are many physical treatments out there, but none of them work without active participation from the patient. This can be difficult when dealing with chronic pain. Because many patients feel helpless when finding a correct treatment option that will work for the long term. When using TENS units, they deliver their pain relief naturally, free of harmful side effects. These are often associated with medications designed to relieve pain. There are also no known interactions that can be associated with TENS units when taking other prescriptive medications.

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TENS units have been used for over 40 years to treat patients with chronic pain conditions without much mainstream media attention. However, many doctors are now recommending the device as a solution for their patients who have difficulty finding effective treatment options for their pain management conditions. TENS units are highly effective at relieving pain and helping with inflammation. Still, they are also very cost-effective compared to many of the other traditional drug-based treatments currently being offered to patients.