In this article we will explain what is the difference between TENS and PEMF therapies, what kind of benefits each therapy has, and which therapy is right for you.
If you would like to read our review of the most popular PEMF devices currently available on the market, you can click here.
Modern medicine is continually learning of new ways to treat symptoms and prevent disease, and the use of electricity and energy has become a popular alternative therapy.
Using various types of electrical signals and impulses, we can now influence nerves, tissues, and cells in ways that mimic the human body and brain, thus restoring health to your bodies and eliminating negative issues like pain.
PEMF and TENS therapy are two types of energy medicine that are gaining popularity.
Medical researchers are learning more each year about what these forms of electrotherapy can do for the treatment and prevention of diseases, and because they are safe to use and have very few adverse effects, they are well tolerated by most people.
Not sure what TENS or PEMF therapy are or how they are used? Well, keep reading!
If you have pain, inflammation, chronic diseases, or nerve problems, one or both of these forms of energy medicine could help you live a healthier, more productive life.
This guide explores the basics of both PEMF and TENS therapy, including the differences between the two and who should use caution when applying these treatments.
What is the Difference Between PEMF and TENS Therapy?
Both pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy are types of electrical stimulation treatments used to treat the body.
Electrotherapy is a common treatment that uses electrical energy to stimulate various nerves, tissues, and cells within the body.
The difference between PEMF and TENS lies chiefly in the mechanism that achieves the healing results.
PEMF devices provide short pulses of low-intensity, low-frequency electromagnetic energy.
This type of energy is similar to what is found within your cells and is used to help regenerate damaged cells, restore circulation, and improve the overall repair process within the body.
TENS devices use low-voltage electrical current that must be applied directly to the skin. This current stimulates nerves, which can help treat pain.
How Does PEMF Therapy Work?
Every cell in your body uses and creates energy.
Every cell within your body emits an electromagnetic field or EMF.
When the natural stores of energy within a cell become depleted or damaged, the cell stops functioning at its full capacity or is unable to perform its necessary function within the body.
When many cells are malfunctioning, the result is damage, disease, or symptoms that alert you to a problem within your body.
PEMF therapy works by using low-intensity pulses of electromagnetic energy to enhance the function of your cells.
The low frequencies of these pulses are similar to the energy your body already creates, and when you expose your cells to this therapy, it is like providing an energy boost to any damaged, diseased, or aging cell in your body.
Using PEMF therapy helps to restore your cell’s natural energy levels, which enables them to function correctly, to carry out all the metabolic processes necessary, and to generate new cells that are healthier and more robust.
Introducing pulses of electromagnetic energy to your body can help restore each cell’s natural energy level and metabolism.
This prevents dysfunction, helps the cell repair and rejuvenate, and can bring balance back to any cells that are misfiring or sending scrambled electrical signals.
Because of its ability to help energize cells, PEMF therapy can be used to treat a wide range of illnesses, including helping reduce inflammation, improve the function of damaged tissues, reduce pain, improve circulation, and even treat some chronic diseases.
Because the electromagnetic waves emitted by PEMF devices can penetrate deep within the body, there is no need for direct skin contact, and PEMF therapy can be used to treat tissues and cells that are not easily accessible by other forms of treatment.
How Does TENS Work?
In contrast to PEMF therapy, TENS treatment requires direct contact with your skin and uses small electrical impulses delivered through electrodes.
These signals are meant to confuse and disrupt the normal electrical impulses of the nervous system that are generating pain, which is why this therapy is most often used in the treatment of pain.
TENS therapy can only influence the nerve cells in the direct vicinity of the electrodes attached to the body.
While it blocks the pain signals that are being sent from the brain, TENS therapy also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are feel-good and pain-relieving hormones.
Health Benefits of PEMF Therapy
PEMF therapy has several proven health benefits and applications.
PEMF devices are available in a wide array of configurations, including small, portable units up to full-body mats that you can sleep on.
Because there are no adverse effects to using PEMF and the body does not build up a tolerance to the stimulation, it can be used for extended periods and over broad areas of the body.
Among the most significant health benefits of using PEMF therapy is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body by stopping the inflammatory response at the source. Inflammation is a symptom that can lead to severe problems and chronic diseases.
The ability to reduce inflammation means that PEMF therapy can help to treat tendinitis, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, joint problems, and many different types of pain.
In addition, PEMF therapy is known to have a positive influence on many other conditions.
Among those that researchers have studied and proven to be effective, PEMF can help to treat insomnia, depression, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, bone fractures, epilepsy, scleroderma, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, migraine headaches, and wounds.
Health Benefits of TENS
The most significant benefit of TENS therapy is that it effectively reduces pain.
When you have chronic pain, pain from an injury or surgery, or have pain from a medical condition, finding relief can be difficult.
There are several risks associated with taking pain medication, especially for an extended period.
And because these drugs often have many adverse effects, it is advisable to take as few as possible.
TENS treatment can help to reduce pain and allow people to treat their symptoms when they need it at home or wherever they may be.
TENS units are very small and convenient to use, which makes them an effective pain-relieving option for many people.
The treatment of pain can help improve your health in several ways.
For example, chronic pain can lead to depression or anxiety, and TENS therapy can help to reduce these mental health symptoms by eliminating the pain that causes them.
TENS is effective for use with both chronic and acute pain, including that associated with post-operative recovery.
For some patients, TENS therapy can help to improve respiratory and cardiovascular function and even help with recovery from a stroke.
TENS can be used to treat the pain of a migraine headache.
Those with a prosthesis may experience phantom limb pain may also experience some relief from using TENS.
Which Type of Therapy is Right for You?
Choosing between PEMF therapy and a TENS unit may seem complicated, but if you look at your health goals and what you are trying to accomplish, it is fairly straightforward.
TENS machines are excellent for addressing pain and providing immediate relief.
TENS is especially great for helping with acute pain that will go away over time.
Other conditions, especially those that result from inflammation, are better treated using PEMF therapy.
PEMF is a better long-term solution for those with chronic conditions, as your body will not habituate to the energy from these devices and you can, therefore, use them for extended periods.
PEMF therapy also works well for disorders and symptoms that are deep within the body, because the electromagnetic waves can penetrate more fully into the body.
Precautions of Using PEMF and TENS
Both TENS and PEMF therapies are very safe to use for most people.
Unlike other forms of pain management or treatment for chronic conditions, neither type of electrotherapy has significant side effects or adverse reactions in the majority of people.
Precautions for PEMF
Those who should exercise caution while using PEMF devices are those with any sort of implant.
For example, implants that use or generate an electrical charge, such as a cochlear implant, a pacemaker, or a drug delivery pump, may not respond well to electrical stimulation close to the implant.
Those with these types of devices should apply PEMF therapy away from the area surrounding the implant for the best results.
It is not fully known how PEMF therapy will influence joint implants and other permanent structures like rods, plates, valves, or stents.
If you have any sort of artificial device in your body, you should talk with your doctor before using PEMF stimulation.
Most manufacturers will suggest PEMF therapy not be used right away on new implants and that the intensity of your PEMF device always be kept low.
There is a lack of evidence regarding the safety of PEMF and pregnancy, which is why it is not recommended that women who are pregnant use this form of treatment. More information is needed to deem it entirely safe.
Precautions for TENS
Women who are pregnant should also not use TENS therapy, but their precaution is limited to not applying the electrodes over the abdomen, pelvis, or trunk.
Using it is other areas of the body has been deemed to be safe.
Those with electrical implants should avoid using TENS therapy around their implant.
People with pacemakers and other electrical devices are cautioned not to use TENS routinely, regardless of where it is applied.
TENS therapy should not be applied over areas of skin lesions or damaged skin.
Those with dermatitis, eczema, or scar tissue may experience increased pain when using TENS electrodes over the damaged area.
Those who have epilepsy should only use TENS therapy under the direct supervision of a medical professional.
Those who use TENS therapy for extended periods will begin to develop a tolerance for the stimulation.
This can result in the need to increase the intensity or frequency of the electrical pulses over time. The long-term use of TENS is therefore not recommended for most people.
Both TENS and PEMF therapy have been widely studied by the medical community, and there is more evidence now than ever before regarding the effectiveness of each to treat various conditions.
While TENS is primarily a treatment used for pain, PEMF not only can relieve pain but also address and even prevent a wide range of conditions.
Talk with your doctor about whether using TENS or PEMF stimulation is right for you.
Richard Hoover is a PEMF expert and content contributor to PEMF Advisor. With a bachelor’s degree in physics and multiple certifications in natural health programs, he is one of the best PEMF experts around.