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Introducing the TENS Unit, the Smartphone-Like Device

HealthmateForever’s 2013 Pro-8ab (left) is a rechargeable TENS unit with a wealth of features, whereas the truMedic PL-009 (right) is an affordable entry-level TENS unit
HealthmateForever’s 2013 Pro-8ab (left) is a rechargeable TENS unit with a wealth of features, whereas the truMedic PL-009 (right) is an affordable entry-level TENS unit

Imagine having your own personal masseuse, on call 24/7. Sounds good, right? Did you know that this might not actually be as far fetched as it sounds? A little gadget called the TENS unit – can in fact be your masseuse – and best of all, you can take it with you, wherever you go. That means TENS therapy at home, on the go, during vacation, in the office… the possibilities are endless. No more waiting for an appointment with your physical therapist, when back pain flares up.

A quick look at how the TENS unit works

TENS units are small devices, some about the size of a cell phone, usually powered by battery (certain higher end models are rechargeable). The devices have wires with electrodes (self-adhesive pads) attached to them. The user places the electrodes on (or close to) the painful region of the body. What the TENS unit then does (once it’s switched on and set) is sends tiny low-voltage electrical impulses to the body. This stimulates the nerves in order to reduce the sensation of pain.

Drug free pain relief

The really cool thing about these devices though is that they provide drug free pain relief. Anybody who has taken painkilling tablets for a prolonged period of time will be aware of the side effects. It’s also important to consider how addictive medication can become. Physical therapists and medical professionals have been using TENS units for over 30 years and no short-term or long-term health risks have been associated with their use. There are no real side effects and any problems experienced are usually down to overuse. Any device worth buying or using comes with FDA approval (and if it isn’t FDA cleared, leave it alone).

In recent years TENS units have become more accessible to the masses. Over the counter (OTC) devices can be purchased online, without a prescription. However, it is recommended that anybody who wants to try TENS therapy should consult with a medical professional (such as a doctor or physical therapist) first. It is suitable for almost anyone but there are a few exceptions, such as people who have pacemakers (or other implanted electrical devices). The TENS unit can interfere with the signals from the pacemaker. Most people skip reading instruction manuals but the TENS unit is one case where it really it is necessary.

Who uses a TENS unit?

You won’t be surprised to hear that the most common use is for back pain. But this little machine isn’t just a one trick pony. Pain sufferers have found it to be an effective tool to counter both chronic and acute pain. Other things TENS therapy can help with include: arthritis, labor pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica. It’s certainly not limited to this list though, further examples can be found here.

Beyond pain relieving benefits

The number one obvious benefit TENS therapy provides is pain relief, without medication – but that’s not all. As was mentioned earlier in the article, the TENS unit can be taken wherever the user pleases, making it portable and super convenient. And the one thing that may impress people most is that it can work out a lot cheaper than constant therapy, over time. Decent quality entry level TENS units can be picked up for as little as $20, with top-of-the-range devices going into the hundreds of dollars. Once the initial investment (the device) has been made the only recurring cost is replacement electrodes. Having a TENS unit may just sort your back pain out and save you some money while doing so.

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