The answer is a definite YES! Having tense muscles and wondering if using a TENS unit will relax them? TENS unit are safe and effective and approved by the FDA. Keep reading to find out how you can use can use a TENS unit to relax your muscles.
TENS and Muscle Relaxation
When considering the question of a TENS unit and muscles relaxation the story gets a little more complicated. Whenever talking about Transcutaneous Muscles Stimulation, the technology naturally needs to be contextualized and placed into a larger field of Electrical Muscles Stimulation (EMS) devices.
The electrical charge given off from a run of the mill TENS unit pales in comparison to the intensity of charge found in EMS devices.
The main difference between the two categories is that ” EMS machines stimulate muscle motor nerves rather than sensory nerve endings, the way TENS units do.”(R) This fact means that an EMS device would be needed if your intention was muscles relaxation.
TENS units simply don’t have the necessary amplitude to stimulate intense and thorough muscle contraction, aimed at either building muscle tone or inducing muscular relaxation.
While not directly relaxing muscles after singular use there is one study that cites the ability of TENS therapy to contribute to muscles relaxation through chronic exposure.
“Repeated use of a TENS unit may also lead to gradual changes in the nearby muscles which allows them to relax more easily, which could lead to decreased sensations of pain in those muscles” (R)
Muscle Spasms and TENS
“According to the NHS, TENS may be able to help reduce muscle spasms caused by conditions such as: arthritis, period pain, knee pain, back pain, and sports injuries.”(R)
One particular review focused on the occurrence of muscles spasms after a spinal cord injury and found effects of TENS to be beneficial. This specific review referenced a study in which a TENS unit was used to activate a nerve found in the leg, and that targeted activation found a decrease in muscle spasms. (R)
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Why should you trust me?
I have extensively used TENS units for neck, shoulder, back and knee issues and became familiar with TENS therapy through countless visits to my chiropractor and physical therapist’s office. I have spent many hours researching and reading how TENS therapy can alleviate pain.
I consider myself knowledgeable in the use of TENS units and have used them regularly to help manage pain over the years. Many of my recommendations are from firsthand experience/use and hopefully my information can be a benefit to you.
Want to know where else a TENS unit can be placed? Check out my TENS placement guide for how to use one for-
Safety and Proper Use
Like most technological based medical interventions safety when it comes to TENS units requires proper and responsible use. According to bodies such as the NHS the applications of TENS therapy is thought of as being safe. Most agree that used correctly the amplitude of charge produced by TENS units is low enough to not warrant danger.
That being said, there are some units who have a spectrum of charge that goes well into the territory of Electrical Muscular Stimulation. This area is where certain rules such as proper pad placement comes into effect. You never want the pads to touch. Generally, the minimum advised space is one inch between pads.
When using a Tens unit you should never place the pads on:
- “the front or sides of your neck
- your temples
- your mouth or eyes
- your chest and upper back at the same time
irritated, infected or broken skin
- varicose veins
- numb areas”(R)
Besides for these restrictions, there is a large amount of variability on where you should even place the pads.
Methods of Application
The most common technique when using TENS devices relies on placing the electrode pads on acupuncture points. This approach is generally advised for those who are interested in finding what is most optimal for themselves.
For those interested in reaping the physiological benefits of a TENS unit Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation seems to have the capacity of treating depression. The means of action result from the direct stimulation of your vagus nerve-so named due to its far-reaching nature wherein the body.
TENS Units: Pain Reduction Mechanism of Action
There exists no consensus on exactly how TENS Units produce the sought after results. When it comes to the subject of pain relief most practitioners and researchers cite the “gate” control theory of pain.
This hypothesis proposes that “stimulating large areas of the skin may shut off or suppress the nervous system in the upper part of the spinal cord. Closing this “gate” may prevent pain signals from passing to the brain from the rest of your body”(R)
Another explanation attributes the pain relief benefits from the endogenous production of endorphins, the body’s naturally derived painkiller.
After careful examination of TENS technology it obvious to see the variety of possible benefits through the use of what is generally an inexpensive device.
The question rests on what your intention is when it comes to using. There is ample evidence that TENS therapy helps a large spectrum of issues that deal with pain.
If on the other hand what you’re interested in is muscle relaxation, you might what to go with an EMS device.
Before beginning to delve into exactly what a Tens Unit even is, the first things you need to realize is that fundamental human biology governed by the laws of physics.
The primary means of energy productions in the body isn’t called an electron transport chain just for show.
So what does this mean? Simple, in order to understand why a Tens Unit would even in the first place you have to understand that your body contains a series of electrical pathways that together directly control your, cardiac, neurological, muscular, and circulatory pathways to name a few.
What is a TENS Device
Tens stand for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Generally speaking, it’s a non-invasive technique of stimulating nerves by directly applying electricity to the surface of the skin
While still being a relatively new medical advent, both clinical and anecdotal evidence has validated the efficacy of tens units for a number of health-related matters. The nature of technology contributes to its variety of uses; everything from building cardiovascular health to treating depression.
While Versatile a TENS’ Units most common application focus on treating chronic pain, and targeted muscle relaxation.
Recommended TENS Usage
There is a growing body of evidence that illustrates the effective use of TENS for a number of different muscular disorders and unique physical situations. TENS therapy is useful in treating:
- Chronic Pain
- “The TENS unit may also help people suffering from chronic pain. In an observational study of 33 people with chronic back pain, 14 (42%) of them experienced at least a 30% pain reduction from TENS. And out of the 14, 13 felt the benefits within an hour or less of using the TENS unit ” (R)
- Among Arthritis Studies one study found that a 30-minute application of a Tens unit resulted in a decrease in pain, among patients while walking. (R)
- Post Surgical Pain
- In a study of 1350 people, researchers found that patients who used a Tens machine needed less medication aimed at relieving pain. ®
- “A study (RCT) with 110 patients found that applying TENS at the base of the head (occipital nerve) significantly decreased the duration of headaches in migraine sufferers. It also had low rates of side effects, making it attractive to patients that did not want to take medications for their migraines.Similarly, a study in 57 patients found that using a TENS unit reduced both the number and intensity of pain episodes in a headache and migraine sufferers.”(R)
Thank you for reading,