A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) mat is a device used to provide pain relief and relaxation through electrical stimulation of the body. Treatment is usually administered with a TENS unit that transmits mild electrical impulses to areas that hurt. TENS pads are adhesive electrodes attached to the skin that pass on electrical impulses to the underlying nerves. The electrical stimulation is thought to block pain signals to the brain, promote the release of endorphins (natural painkillers), and increase blood flow and oxygenation to the affected area. The device is often battery-powered, compact, and suitable for treatment in a health facility or at home. This therapy is generally regarded as low-risk and could help alleviate pain following an accident or in long–term conditions such as arthritis.
The device typically includes a small-sized machine or a stimulator with controls to regulate the flow and intensity of the electrical current. The unit is connected by wires to foam, rubber, or cloth-backed electrode pads. The wires convey electrical impulses from the unit to the TENS pads affixed to areas where a patient feels pain. A conductive gel may be spread on the electrodes, which are then positioned on the skin. The impulses are transmitted to the nerve fibers underlying the skin and thereby to the brain.
When the unit is switched on, a low-voltage current is typically conveyed and a buzzing sensation is felt in the area where the pads are placed. TENS therapy can ease pain in several different ways. Transmission of normal pain signals may be impeded, and one might simply experience a tingling at the site instead. Another explanation could be that electrical stimulation of the nerves enhances the level of endorphins, the pain relievers supplied by the brain.
Generally, a doctor or health practitioner can advise on a TENS course of treatment and the duration of therapy. Typically a doctor indicates the right location for the TENS pads, the current intensity, and steady flow or pulse mode setting for a patient. If necessary, the treatment may be continued at home after initial guidance from a practitioner.