Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

What is “TENS” and how is it used for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) works by using an electrical pulse to stimulate muscle contractions so that your muscles essentially massage themselves. Your muscle’s own metabolism will generate heat that relieves pain and stiffness while improving mobility in your jaw.

How TENS Works

  1. Pain associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMD) is typically the result of muscle strain and nerve pressure. When your jaw muscles are combating the hard tissues of your jaw and skull, they not only strain themselves and put pressure on local nerves, but pull other muscles out of alignment, which creates a cascade effect as those muscles put pressure on other nerves. The first way to relieve the pain associated with TMJ is to get your muscles to relax. TENS does this through its auto-massage.
  2. The TENS units used in gneuromuscular dentistry are different from those used in chiropractic and other applications, where the goal is to block pain signals–dental TENS units actually work to relieve the root cause of pain and provide a good starting place for long-term treatment.
  3. TENS also stimulates the release of endorphins (“feel good” chemicals) from your brain. These endorphins are your body’s natural pain relieving chemicals that also work to lessen the symptoms associated with TMJ.

Results from TENS Treatment
Most studies reveal that it takes about 30 minutes for low-frequency TENS treatment to begin alleviating pain. Some patients report feeling hours of pain relief from 30-to-60 minute sessions.