Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for Pain Management

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Electrical nerve stimulation history

For several thousand years, people have recognized that electrical stimulation can have an impact on pain. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used electric fish to cause numbness, and a report of gout being “cured” by accidental contact with a fish called an electric ray dates back to the first century. Later reports also described pain resolution that occurred when similar types of “electric” fish were placed on afflicted body parts.

It wasn't until the 18th century when a more formal device to deliver electricity to decrease pain was created. Although initially developed in Europe, Benjamin Franklin is credited with reforming the original electric condenser, which was used to shock patients in an effort to treat various ailments. (While the device developed by Franklin is often referred to as a “magic square,” it should not be confused with the other type of magic square credited to Franklin, which is a square grid filled with numbers adding to a specific sum whether totaled vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.)

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2013

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