Understanding the Different Types of TENS Treatments

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is an effective method of treating different types of pain – namely persistent nerve pain. It’s a treatment option many chiropractors employ. But like all chiropractic methodologies, TENS should never be a one-size-fits-all application.

There are four varying types of TENS treatments, each offering unique properties to aid in patient healing and wellness. It’s up to chiropractors to understand the difference between them and their efficacy across different situations. At Ideal Spine, we encourage TENS as part of a Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) approach, but emphasize the use of specific modalities for optimal results.

Alternating current TENS

Alternating current TENS is the typical electrical stimulation most chiropractors are familiar with. This method involves placing diodes directly on and around pain points, delivering low-level electrical current to ease tension and promote blood flow. TENS machines typically operate at high frequency (>50Hz), for maximum muscle stimulation.

This method is most effective in patients with general chronic pain, such as in the low back and hips, as well as the neck and shoulders. It’s usually administered for 8-10 minutes before adjustments. It’s the most broadly used form of TENS and largely versatile within the realm of a CBP treatment plan.

Interferential Current

This is considered a “deeper” form of traditional TENS treatment, operating at an ultra-high frequency (4000Hz) that can penetrate the skin to relieve deep-tissue tension and pain. Because of this, Interferential Current (IFC) is often used for improving range of motion and reducing involuntary muscle spasms caused by deep-tissue stress.

Several studies have proven the efficacy of IFC for improving mobility and a reduction of pain-related fatigue symptoms. Additionally, IFC has proved itself to be a great alternate form of TENS for patients whose bodies don’t respond to the traditional current and frequency of a standard TENS device.

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy

Similar to TENS, is Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy. This electric stimulation is delivered via burst pulses and used almost exclusively to treat patients suffering from failed back surgery syndrome.

Studies have shown the efficacy of PEMF in treating pain frequency, intensity and duration in individuals suffering from failed back surgery syndrome. Because the pulsation stimulation of PEMF is conducive to promote bone growth, it’s also sometimes used in conjunction with supportive treatments to help osteoarthritis patients.

Galvanic Stimulation

Galvanic stimulation is actually a contrasting approach to TENS. It’s specific to treating acute injuries caused by trauma and is sometimes used to address loss of balance caused by conditions like vertigo or inner ear fluid imbalance.

Galvanic stimulation is delivered through diodes much like TENS. However, unlike TENS, which uses an alternating current, Galvanic stimulation uses a direct current. The theory is that direct current creates an electrical field over the affected area, changing blood flow to promote healing. Two diodes – a positive and a negative – each play a role in galvanic stimulation. Positive reduces circulation and swelling; negative increases circulation to speed healing.

Know the role of each treatment

While they all leverage electrical current to promote healing in localized areas, each form of TENS-based treatment is different. If you’re planning on leveraging Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation into a CBP treatment plan, ensure it’s the right modality for the situation. For more information, consult Ideal Spine.

Chiropractic BioPhysics® corrective care trained Chiropractors are located throughout the United States and in several international locations. CBP providers have helped thousands of people throughout the world realign their spine back to health, and eliminate a source of chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, chronic headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other health conditions. If you are serious about your health and the health of your loved ones, contact a CBP trained provider today to see if you qualify for care. The exam and consultation are often FREE. See for providers in your area.

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Meridian, ID 83642

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