Physical therapy TENS treatment is non-invasive and is used to reduce—or eliminate—chronic or acute pain. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Electrical nerve stimulation can sound very scary, but in reality the worst of it is a slight tingle or muscle spasm. The physical therapist can control the intensity, and the patient should quickly notify him or her if it’s painful.

A physical therapist will locate painful areas in the body and strategically place sticky electrodes to the skin that will deliver a low volume electric frequency to stop pain dead in its tracks. The waves can block the typically pain reception process and coax the body into producing more endorphins. Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever on their own, boosting wellbeing.

TENS is often mistakenly considered EMS—Electro Muscle Stimulation. EMS is used for increasing circulation to an injured area, muscle strengthening, and enhancing muscle tone—not specifically pain relief like TENS treatment.

Treatment might last 20 to 30 minutes. For chronic pain, treatment can continue for several hours—however that is the maximum treatment limit. Electrode placement is very important, which is why a healthcare provider (like a physical therapist) should always monitor the treatment.