What is a tens unit?
Chances are you’ve probably seen a version of a tens unit or used one before.
What does it do? Does it fix you or does it just mask the pain? We want to address that today.
But, first let’s talk about two tracks to the brain.
Pain: One track to the brain is pain, otherwise know as nociception.
Movement: The other is movement: also known as mechanoreception.
How do they work together?
These two tracks to the brain send information to the brain, but they move at different speeds. Pain is a very slow mover. You touch a hot stove, it takes a little bit to to realize ‘oh that’s hot!’ On the other hand: movement is very very quick. If a piece of dust or dirt flashes towards your eye: it’s amazing how quick your body responds to that; your eye closes very fast. Movement is a very quick mover or has a very quick track to the brain.
What does that have to do with the tens unit?
Well, everything really.
A lot of times, if you use a tens unit, it’s at a clinic where they hook you up on a tens unit with some sticky pads. And they’ll put those sticky pads right where you’re having pain. So what is that doing?
Is it fixing the muscle? Is it healing it?
The answer is no: it’s not healing your tissue. In fact, it’s not doing anything really therapeutic, besides taking your mind off the pain.
What is it actually doing?
Say you got shoulder pain. You put the pad right on the shoulder and in place of pain, your body is reading ‘movement, movement, movement.’
The tens unit really just disguises or tricks the brain into reading movement instead of pain, giving you some relief for a short amount of time.
We use the tens unit in just a little bit of a different way.
We have dry needles and with my tens unit, we little alligator clips. We’re not putting those sticky pads on people, but what we do is I take that needle right into the tissue that is damaged and with along the dry needling, we’re improving the tissue.
But why do we hook up the tens unit to it? With the dry needling, we’ve got that right in the tight muscle and I take that alligator clip and I put it on there and I turn it up to where you can see the muscle facilitating (bouncing) just a little bit you can see that it’s working really hard. And when a muscle works too hard or it works hard for a little bit, it’ll fatigue and that will give you a little pain relief and allow the muscle to relax.