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Can You Buy a TENS Unit Over the Counter?

Elder woman using a TENS unit while reading

Many people use analgesics as their first choice of pain treatment. Oral medicines are affordable and accessible in pharmacies nationwide. However, long-term intake can result in harmful side effects. Therefore, people with chronic pain seek drug-free forms of pain relief. A doctor or physical therapist often recommends Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation(TENS). Patients ask, can you buy a TENS unit over the counter? Like OTC medicines, you can get TENS in drug stores without a medical prescription. 

TENS is a therapy method that utilises low-voltage electrical currents to relieve pain. It is a safe and natural process involving nerve stimulation to activate the body’s natural painkillers. Thus, it is virtually safe and practicable for most people. In addition, it has wide applications. It has proven a valuable ally for patients with chronic pain. In this article, we will talk about the functions of TENS, its advantages, and safety precautions. 

Can You Buy a TENS Unit Over the Counter: What is It and How Does it Work?

TENS machines have been used by healthcare professionals for decades to help patients manage pain symptoms and other discomforts. It is a battery-operated device with electrode pads to transmit electric impulses to the body. With the rise of at-home medical care, many people are interested if you can buy a TENS unit over the counter. Conveniently, modern devices have regulated currents and settings, making them safe for personal use. Therefore, they are non-prescriptive medical devices.

TENS relieves pain using various stimulation levels. The electrical pulses flow from the electrodes to the sensory nerves through the skin. In high frequency, it induces the nerves in the spinal cord to close. Hence, it intercepts the pain signals travelling to the brain. Another approach is to use a low-frequency range. At this level, it triggers the release of endorphins and enkephalins. They are the body’s natural painkillers that also help minimise stress and improve mood. 

Moreover, there are various types of devices. You may check if you can buy a TENS unit over the counter with the specific functions that you need. For instance, TENS comes in wired or wireless electrode pads. A standard device has lead cables to connect to the pads. On the other hand, devices like the iTENS are wire-free, maximising their portability. You can also purchase TENS machines online, like iTENS Australia, for more choices.

What Can TENS Treat?

TENS is an excellent treatment option for the following conditions:

  • Acute pain –  short-term pain that occurs for specific reasons. Examples are fractures, surgery, and period pain.
  • Chronic pain – disorders lasting more than six months. Leading conditions are osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and sciatica.
  • Muscle pain – soreness and inflammation due to overuse.

Man with back pain

Can You Buy a TENS Unit Over the Counter: Advantages

The effectiveness and convenience of TENS therapy have led more people to ask if you can buy a TENS unit over the counter.  This is because TENS treatment provides many advantages and benefits over other methods. Firstly, it helps treat pain immediately. At the first sign of pain, you may use the device and get relief within a few minutes. The therapeutic effects may also last for hours, depending on individual conditions. 

Secondly, it facilitates faster healing of injuries. Normal tissue and nerve regeneration take time to process. However, with TENS, it helps boost blood and oxygen flow to the affected area. The increased circulation relaxes damaged nerves and muscles, allowing for a shorter recovery period from injuries and postoperative pain. It helps reduce muscle soreness at the surgery site without the need for pain medications. Furthermore, it is efficient for people who cannot perform strenuous activities like exercise. 

Thirdly, TENS is a drug-free pain relief. It does not use substances or chemicals that may harm vital organs or other body parts. Thus, it is safe to use frequently without the risk of developing adverse side effects. Lastly, it is portable. You may carry or use a TENS machine anytime or during physical activities. For this reason, people with busy or active lifestyles are interested if you can buy a TENS unit over the counter instead of oral painkillers.

Are There Disadvantages to TENS?

  • It may not work for everyone.
  • It may take time to work or find the right setting.
  • TENS machine pads require regular replacements. However, refill pads like the iTENS are low-cost.
  • Some people may have allergic reactions to the electrodes.
  • It can interfere with an electrical-implanted device.

Woman controlling a wireless TENS unit through the smartphone app

Can You Buy a TENS Unit Over the Counter: Safety Considerations

A TENS machine can be used safely without professional supervision. However, some people may develop minor side effects, such as redness or rashes at the electrode pad site. Therefore, it is essential to consider the potential risks and safety precautions when you ask if you can buy a TENS unit over the counter. Of vital importance are the TENS settings or power levels. Generally, the electrical stimulation should be strong but not uncomfortable.

The intensity setting will depend on a person’s pain and tolerance level. Stronger pulses can help negate more severe symptoms. However, it should not be so high that it causes vigorous contractions. If you start feeling discomfort, check the settings and reduce the electric currents or pulse strength. Moreover, overusing the TENS device may lead to muscle soreness or skin irritation at the pad site. Thus, it is advisable to keep the treatment time between 30 to 60 minutes.

Furthermore, since TENS utilises electrical currents, there are some places that should be avoided. In particular, do not place the electrodes on the temples, throat, chest, and spine. Also, avoid pad placement on irritated skin, open wounds, and numb areas. Additionally, TENS is not suitable for pregnant women and people with heart problems, a history of seizures, and undiagnosed pain. If unsure, consult a medical professional to see if you can buy a TENS unit over the counter.

Guidelines for Operating a TENS Machine

For safe and effective use, follow the guidelines for using TENS below:

  • Place the electrode pads on the pain area first. 
  • Turn on the machine and start at the lowest level.
  • Adjust the settings or choose a pre-set mode.
  • Gradually increase the intensity until you feel the desired effects.


Individuals with acute or chronic pain employ TENS therapy to relieve their symptoms without using drugs. However, instead of going to clinics, many are interested if you can buy a TENS unit over the counter. Modern portable TENS devices, like the iTENS, are available in pharmacies or online without a medical prescription. In addition, iTENS is the world’s first FDA-cleared wireless TENS device. Hence, it ascertains that it is safe for personal use.

TENS machines are convenient and easy to use. It requires a few steps, making pain management quick and more comfortable. Likewise, you may get a device based on your preference, lifestyle, or treatment needs. For instance, many people prefer the wireless iTENS because it eliminates the hassle of tangled wires. Furthermore, always follow the guidelines and precautions to ensure safety. Finally, you may consult a doctor for a proper assessment before buying a TENS device.

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