Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, is a pain management technique that uses electricity to help alleviate pain. TENS has been a commonly used pain management therapy almost since it was first developed in the late 1960s. But like some other therapies, TENS results aren’t guaranteed — some people find TENS more helpful than others. TENS treatment involves placing small electrodes, devices that conduct electricity, on the skin over the part of the body that’s in pain; they are held in place with adhesive. The electrodes are then attached to a machine that releases small waves of electricity, sending tiny electrical impulses through the electrodes to the painful joint or area of the body. How does electricity alleviate pain? It’s thought that the electrical impulses interrupt messages about pain sent from the nerves to the brain. The electricity blocks the activity of the pain receptors, which send those pain messages. If the brain doesn’t get the messages from the nerves, it doesn’t know that there’s pain, and you don’t feel any. Another theory behind transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is that the electrical impulses released during TENS encourage the body to produce more of its own endorphins, which are natural pain relievers. The electrical currents emitted by TENS are very low — don’t be worried that you’ll feel a big shock. However, it is common to feel a little warmth or even a tingling sensation at the site of the electrodes. One session takes up to 15 minutes, and may be repeated frequently to help alleviate pain. TENS has been tried in a number of conditions as a pain management tool. TENS may be used to ease pain from: Migraines and tension headaches, Cancer pain, Arthritis, Bursitis, Tendonitis, Chronically painful injuries, Pain after surgery, Pain during childbirth, You can receive TENS from your doctor, a physical therapist, or other health care professional. There are also U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved TENS devices to use at home — you’ll need a prescription from your doctor to purchase one. TENS is often considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine. There have been a number of studies done on the effectiveness of TENS on pain management, most with conflicting results pointing to the need for more research. Small, separate studies found that TENS could be helpful in managing rheumatoid arthritis in the hand and pain from knee osteoarthritis. However, research that evaluated a wide spectrum of treatments for lower back pain rated TENS as poor. One fact is certain: TENS does not cure the source of the pain or treat the underlying problem. Still, many people have found that TENS does relieve their short-term pain and find its use worthwhile, even if the pain does come back. What does that mean for you and your pain management? Although the jury is still out on whether TENS is truly effective as a pain management therapy and for what types of pain, since some people do experience some pain relief from TENS, it’s worth talking to your doctor about the risks and benefits of trying it to manage your pain.