Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses low voltage electrical current to provide pain relief. TENS is a method of electrical stimulation which primarily aims to provide a degree of symptomatic pain relief by exciting sensory nerves and thereby stimulating either the pain gate mechanism and/or the opioid system.
TENS units may help treat the following symptoms:
Neck and back pain
Painful diabetic neuropathy
Spinal cord injury
Peripheral artery disease
Chronic pelvic pain
Low back pain
Patients who do not comprehend the physiotherapist’s instructions or who are unable to co-operate
It has been widely cited that application of the electrodes over the trunk, abdomen or pelvis during pregnancy is contraindicated BUT a recent review suggests that although not an ideal (first line) treatment option, application of TENS around the trunk during pregnancy can be safely applied, and no detrimental effects have been reported in the literature
TENS during labour for pain relief is both safe and effective
If there is abnormal skin sensation, the electrodes should preferably be positioned elsewhere to ensure effective stimulation
Electrodes should not be placed over the eyes
Patients who have epilepsy should be treated at the discretion of the therapist in consultation with the appropriate medical practitioner as there have been anecdotal reports of adverse outcomes, most especially (but not exclusively) associated with treatments to the neck and upper thoracic areas
Avoid active epiphyseal regions in children (though there is no direct evidence of adverse effect)
The use of abdominal electrodes during labour may interfere with foetal monitoring equipment and is therefore best avoided.