TENS therapy for neck pain

TENS therapy for neck pain

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or better known as TENS therapy makes use of low-voltage electrical current to bring pain relief. It has been an effective method of reducing pain associated with muscle, joint or bone problems as well as for illnesses and medical conditions. TENS has been prescribed for those who suffer from neck pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, bursitis or tendonitis. Women have also used it for other types of pain such as that experienced while in labor and it has also been used for long-lasting pain such as that experienced from cancer. It has been used successfully for neck pain although to date, there are no proven results of success rates. Experts do say that is safe when the machine is used in a safe manner and when instructions are followed closely. This is an alternative therapy and it is wise to continue using conventional medical treatment in combination with this therapy for best results. Acupuncturists, physical therapists as well as a trained doctor will be able to properly demonstrate how the machine is used in the treatment of neck pain. After being instructed a patient can safely use the machine at home.

The TENS machine

The machine used in TENS therapy is typically battery-operated, uses modulate pulse width, frequency and intensity and therapy is applied at a high frequency greater than 50 Hz with an intensity that is measured below motor contraction at a low frequency of less than 10 Hz so that it produces motor contraction. The subject of TENS therapy has met with controversy and the benefits are debated.

Because TENS is non-invasive it is desired over other methods for reduction of both acute and chronic pain. Some studies have shown that TENS modulates or suppresses pain signals in the human brain and that is why it is effective for pain relief. A wearable TENS for patients was patented in the U.S. in 1974 (US 3817254 A) by inventor D Us Maurer with Original Assignee Medtronic Inc, Us and was used for chronic pain. Because the unit is battery-powered and pocket-sized it is a portable means of controlling pain, which is very appealing to those suffering from chronic neck pain.

These machines used to be very expensive, and some professional models still are, but inexpensive models are available today.  I first tried TENS when a physical therapist used the unit on me during one of my sessions.

How TENS works

The mild electrical signals are a safe way to control pain but it should be noted that individuals should not use it if they have a heart pacemaker because the signals that are emitted from the unit could interfere with how the pacemaker is designed to work. It has also been determined that pregnant women should not use TENS because studies have not been conducted yet to show the effect on an unborn baby. Individuals who have problems with their blood or blood vessels or those with seizure disorders or who experience convulsions should not use TENS on the head or neck regions.

People have experienced pain relief from TENS when they have muscle spasms of the neck or have arthritis in the neck region. A single treatment can last for up to 3 or 5 days. One reason that this treatment is beneficial for those suffering from pain such as neck pain is that the TENS signals increase the level of endorphins in the body and as we know it is endorphins that are a natural pain-relieving chemical that the body makes naturally (Truven Health Analytics Inc., 2013).

I have personally used a TENS unit and found it helpful to manage my chronic pain.  It’s a little inconvenient because you need to attach the unit to your neck region in several places with these adhesive strips which can be re-used several times.  This is why I don’t use it very regularly, but I do get it out once in a while.  Afterwards you almost feel as though you’ve had a massage.

Please leave a comment if you’ve tried TENS and what your experience was!



Truven Health Analytics Inc. (2013). How to use a tens unit.

Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/cg/how-to-use-




Speak Your Mind