PEMF and TENS therapy are both energy therapies that have been steadily gaining traction in health and medicine.
Both have a steady track record of success in clinical and home applications, and both have continued to garner interest in both holistic and western medicine.
What is the difference between the two, and is one truly better than the other?
The Basics of TENS Therapy
TENS is an energy therapy, like PEMF, but focuses specifically on blocking the sensation of pain in the body, in order to provide drug-free pain relief that is not habit forming, and consistently offers results.
TENS was first identified as a specific type of energy therapy in the 1970s, where it began focused and careful trials in human populations.
It was developed by a single company for several years, before enjoying more widespread acclaim and interest.
TENS therapy is applied by placing electrodes or wands onto a patient’s skin, and using those objects to transmit consistent jolts of electromagnetic energy.
In what is perhaps among its most unique attributes, TENS therapy is best applied while the patient is moving.
If a patient is standing still, TENS therapy does not as effectively diminish sensations of pain.
For this reason, most TENS therapy applicators are designed to be highly portable, whether they are created for at-home or clinical use.
The Basics of PEMF Therapy
PEMF therapy is another type of energy therapy.
PEMF therapy has roots in electromagnetic stimulation studies and experimentation that began almost 100 years ago, and continued to garner interest until its most recent iteration in the 1960s and 1970s.
Based on the idea that the human body has its own unique frequency that is necessary for general health and wellness, PEMF therapy delivers pulses of electromagnetic energy into the body, in order to aid in the health and support of cellular function and cellular communication.
Because cells effectively communicating with one another is vital for every bodily function, proponents of PEMF encourage the use of PEMF for both general health support, and more targeted efforts to heal or recover.
PEMF therapy is delivered in two mediums, typically: through a large mat, which delivers pulses over the entire body during sessions, or through small wants, which can deliver PEMF therapy to specific areas of the body.
PEMF can be used in a clinical setting and be administered by healthcare professionals, or can be used at home.
PEMF is considered an extremely safe, low-risk type of therapeutic intervention, and does not typically present substantial cause for concern with pre-existing conditions and substantial health concerns.
What TENS Treats
TENS therapy is specifically designed and approved for pain relief.
Although TENS devices were initially used to assess pain, they continue to show their promise as a treatment for pain.
TENS therapy is not designed to mediate any health issues, or improve the source of the pain, but functions in much the same way as standard, over-the-counter pain medication:
TENS blocks pain receptors in the body and brain, allowing patients to experience relief from feelings of pain, pressure, and discomfort.
Although there are some bodies of evidence hoping to demonstrate the efficacy of TENS therapy in areas other than pain relief, these studies are still in progress, and do not have a large body of support to substantiate these claims or suggestions.
As it stands, TENS is wholly focused on pain relief.
What PEMF Treats
PEMF is used to treat a variety of ailments—some of them are treated exclusively with PEMF, while others use PEMF therapy as a supplemental intervention.
Depression, arthritis, wound healing, and muscle fatigue are all approved, recognized uses of PEMF therapy, but PEMF therapy has reportedly also shown promise as a treatment method to lessen pain, reduce blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and decrease inflammation.
The potential applications of PEMF are quite broad, even if there are only currently 4 officially recognized applications for the treatment modality.
Potential Drawbacks of Energy Therapies
Although energy therapies are considered low-risk intervention methods, with a track record of little more than slight discomfort, small skin issues, or a temporary increase in pain symptoms, they can be counterintuitive for some members of the population.
People who are pregnant, for instance, should avoid both PEMF therapy and TENS therapy, because no safety studies have been conducted to evaluate the safety of both mother and fetus.
People with pacemakers, cochlear implants, and similarly important electronic implants are also cautioned to avoid energy therapy concentrated in these areas, in order to avoid the possibility of interfering with electrical function.
People with sensitive skin often report more feelings of discomfort than people who do not have sensitive skin, but the reaction of sensitive skin is not known to deliver severe adverse health effects, or even long-term pain or discomfort.
People who are currently taking medication are also encouraged to first consult with their doctor, as PEMF has been known to increase the efficacy of medicine.
PEMF Versus TENS: Which Is Better?
The question of which is better depends on your unique needs.
TENS is specifically for pain relief, and is not used as a source of general health or wellness support.
If pain is your primarily or sole focus, TENS machines can provide the help you are seeking.
If, however, you are in search of a therapy that targets multiple areas, can be used long-term as a supportive therapy, and has the potential to come equipped with additional therapeutic interventions, PEMF therapy is likely to be the best option for you and your needs.
Movement is also a significant component to keep in mind when selecting between TENS and PEMF therapy.
TENS therapy is best applied while a patient is kept moving—walking outside, for instance, or jogging on a treadmill.
If chronic pain is a factor, or joint or muscle issues are at play, keeping a steady stream of movement may prove too difficult.
PEMF therapy, in contrast, can be applied while a patient is sitting, standing, or lying down, and may be more accessible for a wider range of people in need of relief from pain or other symptoms of illness or ill health.