Winter is officially here, and the combination of exercise and cold air is often accompanied by sore muscles and joints. Post-workout soreness is very common – practically expected – since you’re placing your body in a moderately stressful state in order to become stronger. After all, “no pain, no gain,” right? Before you reach for those pain meds though (which could do a number on your liver over time), there are plenty of drug-free options available that can support the recovery of muscle and joint soreness after a workout such as TENS therapy.
The science behind TENS therapy
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and has been used for over 30 years by medical professionals like physical therapists and chiropractors. Scientific theory suggests the gentle electrical pulses generated by TENS units move through the skin to nearby nerves to block or shut out pain signals from reaching the brain. These electrical pulses also work to increase the production of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killer), while improving blood circulation through gentle contractions of the muscles.
For people with arthritis or chronic pain, routine TENS therapy can be especially useful for blocking pain receptors at the site of pain for powerful relief. And for those with acute* muscle or joint pain brought on by strenuous exercise or injury, the stimulation of blood flow to the area of pain has been shown to promote recovery.
*Acute pain refers to sore or achy muscles due to strain from exercise or normal household and work activities.
Types of TENS Units
There are a multitude of TENS units to choose from that are designed to treat aches and pains on different parts of your body. But how do you know which one to choose? Ideally, your TENS unit should offer an assortment of modes and intensities, which will allow you to determine the exact level of relief you need. In a typical therapy session, pain can be under control anywhere from 15-30 minutes.
If you want the most powerful relief: Choose a device with modes designed for different parts of your body (like shoulders, lower back, arm, foot, leg and joint), adjustable levels of intensity depending on your pain, and massage modes. Here is one example: The OMRON Max Power Relief TENS Unit
If you want to heat things up: Choose a device that combines soothing heat with TENS therapy while offering a variety of pain modes, massage modes, and levels of intensity. The OMRON Total Power + Heat TENS Unit heats up to approximately 110 degrees for on-the-spot warmth (about the same as a heating pad) and features a mode with alternating periods of TENS and heat therapy.