Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief, most commonly of the back. Using a small, battery-powered machine, your chiropractor connects two electrodes (wires that conduct electrical current) from the machine to your skin. The electrodes are often placed on the area of pain or at a pressure point, creating a circuit of electrical impulses that travels along nerve fibers.
When the current is delivered, some people experience less pain. This may be because the electricity from the electrodes stimulates the nerves in an affected area and sends signals to the brain that block or “scramble” normal pain signals. Another theory is that the electrical stimulation of the nerves may help the body to produce natural painkillers called endorphins, which may block the perception of pain.
People use TENS to relieve pain for several different types of illnesses and conditions, most often to treat muscle, joint, or bone problems that occur with illnesses such as osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, or for conditions such as lower back pain, neck pain, tendinitis, or bursitis. People have also used TENS to treat both acute and chronic pain.