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How long do you wear your Tens Unit?

MaggiePMMaggieP Posts: 349
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Chronic Pain
I'm sitting here with heated neck wrap around my neck, and my Tens Unit on my lower back. When I received it from my PT, he told me to use it no more than 20minutes at a time on one place.Is the purpose of it to stimulate the nerves so they don't hurt when you quit using it, or is it to block the pain while it is buzzing along? So far all it's doing for me is sharp electrical jabs that's making my back hurt worse. Maybe I'm using it wrong. Any ideas? I'm through with PT, so can't ask the therapist. I would just like to get some type of life back.



  • MaggieP
    The TENS works a couple different ways. First, it helps relax your muscles and second it interrupts the way in which your nerves transmit pain signals. So to answer your question: both! The muscle effect should last after your unit is shut off and the nerve effect most likely will only be when the unit is running -- at least that's how it works for me. I was told to run mine for an hour and shut it off for an hour or two. This will apparently keep you from building up a short-term "tolerance" and supposedly will allow you to realize some benefit without running the thing. My TENS is the only reason I can survive working; I end up running mine all day because my pain returns as soon as I shut it off. (I don't need the muscle relaxation but it does at least lower or change some of the pain on the nerve side and makes it just a little more bearable.)

    From what I've read, it's very much an individual thing as to what feels good and if you even like it. Some folks don't like the TENS at all. I couldn't survive without mine. I know there's several units out there and I'm not sure about yours, but mine has several "programs" and some are painful! The acupuncture mode is horrible. My favorite is where the intensity is constant and the frequency changes.

    Here's a couple ways that you might make it more comfortable. My rep told me to keep adjusting things until I find what I like. First you can try moving the pads a little bit, sometimes they bother me and I can move one or all of them just a smidge. I've also found that if I criss-cross the channels that is most effective. You can try up/down or side to side. You can also get different pads, I like the larger 2 3/4" pads and the 2" square blue PALS pads. Try different programs. I've got my favorite and never run the others. You might also call your PT office and see if they have some recommendations or can help with the settings, I'm sure they would be willing to assist you if you're having trouble.

    Hope your TENS helps you out, I wouldn't be able to work if I didn't have mine. It helps just enough to get me through the day.
  • I don't have a home TENs unit but if you put it on the muscle rather than the bone it may help better on either side of the spine. Also make sure there's enough gel on the pads or water whatever you use. I have something similar to TENS that I use at home. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • hi Maggie
    i have been using tens for 15 years now
    i have found that the best machine to use is the acticare
    i use mine for about 22 hours a day/night .i have to use the high quality electrodes{the blue ones }PALS tpn 150
    the acticare is a high quality TENS ,as for using it for 20 Min's i carnt see why you would bother! because as soon as you remove it .the pain would come racing back.so i have mine on a low setting all the time ..my pain consultant is fine with this .the only down side is that my back has been scared from using it for extended periods {small price to pay for pain relief though
  • it is still unclear how the unit works to help pain, but several theories exist. 1 is the gate control theory. wich says that the electrical currunt controls the gate where pain signals are able to pass through nerves, since the current is controllin flow the pain signals are unable to pass through, however untrue in my case. pain always get through for me.
    the other theeory is similar to the wur natural pain controls work. the electrical current causes pain there fore fprcinthe brain to produce dopimine and endorphans to controil pain. simalar to the way morphine works. good kuck.
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