PENS Therapy: A Minimally Invasive Chronic Pain Management Solution
PENS, or percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a pain management technique that combines the benefits of acupuncture with electrotherapy. Sometimes referred to as electroacupuncture, the PENS medical technique uses very fine needles to stimulate a nerve or group of nerves via a small electrical current. During the procedure, the electrically conductive needles (electrodes) are pressed into the skin very near or immediately on top of the location of the chronic pain. Anywhere from 5 to 15 needles are used to puncture the top layer of the skin usually to a depth that varies from about 2 to 4 centimeters (3/4 to 1-1/2 inches). However, some newer PENS machines utilize a pad with hundreds of very short needles to break the skin's surface instead of a few longer needles. In either case, even though many needles are used to puncture the skin, this treatment is still considered to be minimally invasive.
PENS therapy can be used to treat a range of pain causing ailments. It is most often used for chronic joint or muscle pain, but it can also be used for pain associated with recent surgical procedures and sometimes neuropathy and osteoarthritis. The best areas to treat include the lower back, neck, shoulder, legs, knees, hips, hands, ankles and feet.
According to one study, PENS provided "highly effective short-term pain relief for patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy" [Hazma, 2000]. While this therapy can be a good treatment for peripheral nerve pain, it may have reduced benefits for pain centers located in deep tissues, as accurate needle placement may be difficult.