Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Device: HSA Eligibility

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Device: eligible with a Health Savings Account (HSA)
A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Device is an eligible over-the-counter product that does not need a prescription for reimbursement with a flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Device reimbursement is not eligible with a limited-purpose flexible spending account (LPFSA) or a dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA).

HSA Eligible Pain Relief

Under IRC 213(d)(1), "medical care includes amounts paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body." This includes medical equipment, supplies and devices.

What is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation device?

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Device, also known as a TENS Machine, is an at-home medical device that is designed to give users the ability to apply electrotherapy to sore muscles and joints to alleviate acute and chronic pain. Electrotherapy has been used as a means of pain relief for more than a century to treat both acute and chronic pain, but the medical community is still divided as to its true physiological mechanism in alleviating pain. While some studies have shown that electricity can block the transmission of pain signals through the nerves, others have shown that electrotherapy can promote the release of endorphins, a form of natural pain reliever that can reduce instances of pain in a variety of situations (Cleveland Clinic).

How do Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation devices work?

TENS machines work in one of two ways based on the frequency of the electrical current and pulse rate that is used, including:

High Pulse Rate: On a setting of 90-130 Hz, which is the normal setting for most TENS machines, pain signals that are sent from the brain to the affected area are blocked, which can lessen the sensation of pain in these areas. These machines are used in 15-20 minutes intervals several times per day, and they are mainly used to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal pain, such as long-term back pain or knee joint arthritis.

Low-Pulse Rate: This lower setting, about 2-5 Hz, is designed for less intense pain sensations and can stimulate the body's ability to release its own pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. While this is not as effective in treating musculoskeletal pain, it can be effective in treating migraine headaches, period pain and sports injuries.

TENS machines can be used by just about anyone, but it is advised that individuals should not use a TENS machine if they do not know where the pain has originated from, have become pregnant, have a pacemaker installed or have a form of epilepsy or certain types of heart disease (National Health Service).

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