Transcutaneous Stimulation (TENS)

What is transcutaneous stimulation?

Transcutaneous stimulation (TENS) consists mainly in a stimulation of the skin from the application of electric current provided by a portable external generator. This stimulator manages, by means of cutaneous electrodes, to emit high frequency impulses at low intensities or vice versa to the surface of the skin where there is pain or nerves. TENS has no adverse effects.

With these impulses it is possible to “trick” the body when transmitting pain, the patient noticing a different sensation to the pain he/she normally suffers, being more pleasant.

Why is transcutaneous stimulation performed?

Transcutaneous stimulation is used to mitigate the pain suffered by a patient. This is achieved by preventing the activation of the nerve cells responsible for transmitting pain by applying a mild electrical current that stimulates cells present in the medulla that release a substance that binds to the nerves and prevents the activation of the cells responsible for transmitting pain. The patient will feel a much more pleasant sensation than the pain he/she normally feels.

However, if the electric current is too intense, the intensity of the stimulus created can be limited. The efficacy of TENS has not been fully proven.

Example of the use of transcutaneous stimulation (TENS)

What does transcutaneous stimulation consist of?

The application of TENS is a priori quite simple: electrodes are attached to the skin – they can be placed anywhere on the body – and shocks are initiated. For pain due to trauma, the application of TENS can be precisely in the area where the pain affects, generating a kind of analgesia in the indicated place or around the affected area.

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In processes in which there are nerve lesions, the electrodes should be placed exactly in the area of the lesion and the brain, near the affected area so that the waves to the nervous system can be interrupted.

The frequency of the impulse, its duration, its frequency as well as the time interval with which the bursts are applied must be taken into account.

Preparation for transcutaneous stimulation

There is no specific preparation for this procedure. In fact, it is performed on an outpatient basis.

The contraindications to perform it are people suffering from cardiac problems or diseases or those who have a pacemaker. It should also not be used in people affected by epilepsy or in those who are pregnant.

On the other hand, TENS should not be applied in areas where there is hermorrhage or in areas close to the glottis, since the stimulation may cause spasm(s) of the upper airways.

Care after transcutaneous stimulation

No special care is required after application of TENS, as it simply causes an analgesic effect when used.