TENS Therapy to Help Manage Pain After Orthopaedic Surgery

After orthopaedic surgery, your doctors and nurses will make every effort to control your pain. While you should expect to feel some discomfort, advancements in pain control now make it easier for your doctor to manage and relieve pain. Surgeons and their patients are increasingly using alternative methods, such as relaxation techniques and acupuncture, to supplement conventional medicine. A combined approach to pain management is often the best option because it allows the surgeon to tailor pain control methods to each individual patient.

In transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) a special device transmits low-level electrical charges into the area of the body that is in pain. A TENS system consists of a small, battery-powered machine connected by wires to a pair of electrodes. The two electrodes are connected to your skin near the source of pain or at a pressure point. A mild electrical current travels through your skin and along your nerve fibers which may cause a warm, tingling sensation. A typical TENS session lasts anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

A TENS unit sends a mild electrical current along your nerve fibers. Many studies have found that TENS is useful in easing pain after surgery, as well as pain related to injuries, such as fractures and sprains. TENS may also be helpful for some chronic pain conditions, particularly low back pain.

How TENS Works

There are several ways TENS is thought to relieve pain:

Gate Control Theory. In order for you to feel pain, the sensation must travel through a “gate” to get to the brain. Normally, the pain is allowed to flow freely through the gate because it (pain) is the only sensation trying to get through. However, if the gate becomes flooded with another type of sensation (in this case, an electric current), the gate will reach capacity and no longer have room for the underlying pain sensation to get through.

Release of Endogenous Opiates. Some scientists believe that TENS works by forcing certain nerve cells to release more of the body’s natural pain killers called “endorphins.” This causes you to feel less pain.

Central Inhibitory Effect. TENS may also work by changing the way your brain perceives pain.

Read the full article here: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00649

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