The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below. Achalasia, antiviral, atopic eczema, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cerebral blood flow enhancement, cognitive function, dementia, depression, dystonia, esophageal spasm, fibromyalgia, fracture pain, Guillain-Barre syndrome, hemophilia, herpes, hip pain, interstitial cystitis, itch, joint pain, labor induction, local anesthesia, menstrual cramps, MPD syndrome, multiple sclerosis, muscle cramps, muscle strains/pain, muscle spasticity, musculoskeletal trauma, nerve damage, osteoarthritis, pancreatitis, calcarea, Raynaud's phenomenon, repetitive strain injuries, sacral pain, schizophrenia, shingles, shoulder subluxation, sickle cell anemia pain, sphincter of Oddi disorders, sports injuries, thrombophlebitis, tinnitus, tremor, utero-placental perfusion enhancement, whiplash.
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
TENS is generally reported as well tolerated. Skin irritation and redness are the most common adverse reactions, occurring in up to one-third of patients. Hives, welts, or contact dermatitis/allergic skin reactions may occur with the use of electrodes and electrode paste. Electrical burns may occur with excess use or improper technique. Due to the risk of burns, TENS should be used cautiously in people with decreased sensation, such as with neuropathy.
TENS should not be used in patients with implantable devices such as defibrillators, pacemakers, intravenous infusion pumps, or hepatic artery infusion pumps. Electrical shocks or device malfunction may occur.
There are isolated case reports of lung atelectasis and edema, paresthesias, pain, and increased hair growth with the use of TENS. Seizures have been reported, and TENS should be used cautiously in people with seizure disorder. Unpleasant sensations at and away from the site of TENS, headache, muscle aches, nausea, agitation, and dizziness have also been reported. It is also sometimes suggested that TENS may affect the cardiovascular system, increasing heart rate and reducing blood pressure.
TENS cannot be recommended during pregnancy due to insufficient evidence, and due to a theoretical risk of harm to the fetus. Fetal heart rate may be elevated. Although multiple trials of TENS for pain relief during childbirth have been published, interference with fetal heart monitoring equipment may occur, and this technique should not be used unless under the strict supervision of an experienced licensed healthcare practitioner. Safety of TENS is not established in children.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature, edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).