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Shockwave Therapy vs. TENS: Which is Right for You?

Chronic pain can be debilitating, interfering with daily activities and overall quality of life. If you’re struggling with persistent pain, you’re likely on the lookout for effective solutions. 

Two popular options are shockwave therapy (SWT) and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). While both have their place in pain management, they offer different approaches, and one might be better suited to you than the other. 

Let’s discuss how they work and why shockwave therapy often delivers the best possible results.

Understanding Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that delivers high-energy acoustic waves (similar to sound waves) to the injured or painful areas of the body. 

It is considered a regenerative treatment, meaning it stimulates the body’s natural healing processes to address the underlying cause of pain and dysfunction.

How does shockwave therapy work?

Shockwave therapy works primarily in the following ways:

  1. Stimulating cellular responses

The shockwaves trigger a series of biological responses at the cellular level, including:

  • Increased blood flow and new blood vessel formation, which bring oxygen and nutrients essential for healing.
  • Release of growth factors to accelerate the body’s tissue repair process.
  • Breakdown of scar tissue or calcifications that may be causing pain and limiting movement.
  1. Pain relief

While shockwave therapy promotes healing, it also offers pain relief. The shockwaves directly target nerve fibers, reducing their sensitivity and decreasing pain signals sent to the brain.

What are the applications of shockwave therapy in pain management?

Shockwave therapy has wide-ranging applications in pain management, particularly for chronic musculoskeletal conditions. This includes:

  • Tendinopathies (e.g., tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis)
  • Joint pain (e.g., shoulder pain, osteoarthritis)
  • Muscle pain and trigger points
  • Delayed healing of bone fractures

Understanding Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS

TENS is a pain management technique that uses a small, battery-powered device that delivers mild electrical currents through the skin. 

Your therapist will place sticky electrode pads over the painful area or near the nerves leading to the area. The TENS unit will then send gentle electrical impulses through the electrodes and into the patient’s skin.

How does TENS work?

The electrical impulses coming from a TENS unit have two primary effects:

  1. Overriding pain signals

The electrical stimulation from the TENS unit can confuse or “scramble” the pain signals traveling to your brain. It essentially closes a “pain gate,” potentially reducing the pain you perceive.

  1. Releasing endorphins

The electrical stimulation may also trigger the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers.

What is its role in pain management?

TENS has a variety of applications in pain management. Here’s a breakdown of some common areas where it’s used:

  • Chronic pain conditions like osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, or back pain
  • Acute pain such as sports injuries or post-surgical pain.
  • Labor pain
  • Pain management at home or on the go.

Comparative Analysis: Shockwave Therapy vs. TENS

  1. Symptom management 
  • Shockwave therapy: Treatment and healing in SWT goes beyond symptom relief. It addresses the underlying cause of pain by stimulating healing and tissue regeneration. This can lead to a more significant reduction in pain and improved function over time.
  • TENS: This technique primarily masks pain symptoms, providing temporary relief. When you turn off the device, the pain is likely to return.
  1. Effectiveness in pain relief: Which provides faster results?
  • Shockwave therapy: While some improvement may be noted quickly, the full effects of shockwave therapy typically take several weeks to manifest as tissue healing progresses. 

However, SWT might offer faster pain reduction over the course of treatment compared to TENS.

  • TENS: TENS often provides immediate yet temporary pain relief while the device is in use. You might feel a reduction in pain within minutes of starting a session.
  1. Duration of pain relief: Short-term vs. long-term benefits
  • Shockwave therapy: SWT aims for long-term pain relief by targeting the underlying cause of pain and promoting healing. It has been known to have positive effects lasting for months or even years after treatment.
  • TENS: The pain relief from TENS is usually temporary. Pain may return once the device is turned off.
  1. Side effects and safety considerations
  • Shockwave therapy: Generally considered very safe with minimal side effects. Possible side effects can include:
  • Mild to moderate discomfort during treatment
  • Temporary redness, bruising, or swelling at the treatment site
  • It may not be appropriate for pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions
  • TENS: Considered safe with low risk. Possible issues might include:
  • Mild skin irritation from the electrodes
  • Not suitable for people with pacemakers or certain medical conditions

Why is shockwave therapy a better option than TENS?

While both therapies have their merits, shockwave therapy offers distinct advantages in many cases:

Faster results

Shockwave therapy often works faster than TENS, with some patients experiencing noticeable improvement after just a few sessions.

Long-lasting relief

The effects of SWT are often long-lasting. Its pain-relieving effects and functional improvements can persist for months or even years after treatment.

Non-invasive, drug-free

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive procedure requiring no surgery or medication. This makes it a safer alternative with minimal side effects.

End Pain, Stay Active: Hands-on Therapy Services Delivers Effective Solutions

If you’re struggling with hand or shoulder pain, Hands-on Therapy Services can help. Our expert hand and occupational therapists specialize in evidence-based treatments, such as  shockwave therapy, that promote healing and restore function.  We’re here to help you:

  • Stay active: Regain the ability to participate in the activities you love.
  • Beat pain: Achieve lasting pain relief without relying on medication.
  • Avoid invasive options: Explore effective alternatives to injections or surgery.

Our resident Miami occupational therapist also specializes in the latest techniques to treat the underlying causes of your pain. 

Some examples of the services our occupational and hand therapist in Miami provide include:

Ready to take the first step towards a pain-free life? Contact the best facility for shockwave therapy near me一Hands-on Therapy Services. 

Discover how our personalized approach can help you reach your goals!

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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