Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) 

TENS is a type of pain relief that is centred around using small electrical currents to ‘block out’ the nerves that are transmitting the feelings of pain you are experiencing. Instead of pain, you will feel more tolerable tingling sensations. Small pads are placed above or to either side of the area that is giving pain, and the results are felt straight away. TENS can be used to manage both acute and chronic pain but may not work for everyone. 

For people with pacemakers, women in the first 3 months of pregnancy and people who operate heavy machinery, TENS is not an appropriate form of pain relief. If it is appropriate for you, your physiotherapist can refer you to a hospital physiotherapy department or a community physiotherapist who will be able to loan you a TENS machine for several weeks. If TENS is effective in reducing your pain, you may wish to buy your own machine.

Simple Science

Pain transmission (or nociception) is the series of events that take place in our bodies which allow us to feel and react to pain. It is a very complex process.

When pain helps us out:

  1. We are exposed to something that is painful (a painful stimulus). For example, we walk barefoot onto a hot sandy beach.
  2. Specialized structures on the soles of our feet called pain receptors to detect the painful stimulus.
  3. The pain receptors send messages to the brain via the spinal cord (timeframe-fraction of a second).
  4. The brain receives the pain message and interprets it ( time frame-fraction of a second).
  5. The brain co-ordinates a response to the pain (e.g. get off the beach, run into the sea, put shoes on). Pain receptors are located throughout our bodies. Different types of pain receptor detect different types of stimuli (like temperature, pressure and chemicals).