TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is an electrostimulation technique that originally intends to ease symptomatic pain by stimulating the pain gate mechanism or the opioid system by stimulating sensory nerves.
TENS has varying potency according to the type of pain being treated. When used properly, however, TENS has been shown to provide greater pain reduction than a placebo.
Two mechanisms of pain relief can be activated in the body: the pain gate mechanism and the endogenous opioid system.
Let's go over the stimulation types to activate these systems:
- The first type of stimulation is analgesia using the pain gate mechanism. It causes Aβ sensory fibers to activate (excite). It is best to use a fairly high frequency of about 90-130 Hz to stimulate the Aβ fibers. This type of action is good for local anesthesia and it puts patients at ease the fastest.
- The second type of stimulation is to affect A-delta (Aδ) nerve fibers. This type of fibers react mostly to low-frequency pulses of some 2-5 Hz. This low frequency action activates the opioid mechanisms in the body. It is not a quick activation process, so make sure that the session takes 20 minutes or more to complete. The low frequency treatment takes the pain away not just at the exposed area, but in the area around it as well.
- The third type of stimulation is a mix of low-frequency and high-frequency stimulation. High and low-frequency pulses alternate with one another here. It is fairly powerful in some cases, while it is the simulation option of the least pleasure that patients can experience.