Medical treatments are only as effective as the way they’re administered. Physical therapy will only improve mobility if the patient does the exercises. Medication will only help symptoms if the patient takes the proper dosage, and not doing so can render treatment ineffective or even dangerous.
The same is true of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. While TENS units are incredibly helpful to reduce pain, they can become ineffective and negatively impact the health of the person using them. By following these safety tips for properly using a TENS Unit, you can ensure you get the most out of your experience.
Practice Electrode Safety
TENS electrodes are designed to administer a mild electric shock to the nerves through the skin. While this shock is far from far enough to cause electrocution, it can cause harm in other ways when placed poorly. When putting electrodes on your body, avoid placing them on:
- The spine
- The head
- The throat
- Both sides of your chest simultaneously
- The abdomen if you’re pregnant
- The neck or shoulders if you’re an epilepsy patient
- Wet skin
- Broken or rash-infected skin
- Locations of suspected cancer
Also, be sure that there’s enough space between electrodes. Overlapping the electrodes can make them become ineffective.
It’s essential to turn the machine off before you touch an electrode. This includes putting the electrodes on the body and taking them off. Doing this will help you avoid unintentionally shocking your fingers.
Be Cautious About Multitasking
One of the wonderful things about TENS units is the fact that they are noninvasive. Because of that, you can use them while doing other things such as household chores or watching television. However, there are some things you should not do while using a TENS unit.
Avoid doing anything that involves working with water while using a TENS unit. This includes showering or washing dishes. Experts also recommend that you do not use a TENS unit while you’re driving or operating machinery.
Check With Doctor If You Have a Medical Condition
Even though TENS units are safe, they can interact poorly with some medical conditions. This is especially true for people who use cardiac pacemakers or have epilepsy.
Pacemakers and epileptic seizures involve electrical impulses—one from the machine, the other from the brain. TENS units can potentially disrupt these electrical impulses, causing problems. TENS may also cause those in the early stages of pregnancy to experience uterine contractions and early labor.
Just like medication and physical therapy, TENS units are a perfectly safe and effective medical treatment. But knowing how to use TENS units safely is key. If you aren’t sure if you’re using your unit correctly, talk to your doctor about how to safely use tens units for back pain relief and other conditions.