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Professionally endorsed

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Electric Stim Machine – What Is It Used For?

A small wing iTENS electrode and information about it

Electric stim machines are also known as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units. These are electrotherapy devices that doctors and physical therapists use to relieve aches from chronic and acute pain conditions. Nowadays, people also use it in their homes and various locations. These portable devices help treat pain from conditions such as migraines, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Many people use them to reduce or replace their intake of oral pain medications.

TENS machines have grown in popularity because they are non-invasive and drug-free. People apply electrodes near or on the pain source and then deliver electric currents to the skin. Then, they adjust the settings for optimal relief. However, consulting a healthcare professional before using TENS is crucial to ensure safety. This article will present what a TENS machine is used for, how it works, and how to use it.

What is an Electric Stim Machine Used for

An electric stim machine is an electrotherapy device used to alleviate different types of pain. They are also known as TENS machines, and many healthcare providers use them to help their clients manage their aches. The type often seen in hospitals and therapy clinics is the wired or handheld TENS machines. These deliver powerful electrical stimulation for pain relief using lead cables. These cables connect the power source and controller to the electrode pads.

Another kind of TENS machine is the wireless TENS unit. This type removes the restriction of lead wires for convenient and portable pain relief. Instead, it uses Bluetooth technology to control the electrodes. Nowadays, these machines are available in pharmacies and online. Buying a personal device enables people to achieve drug-free relief without going to medical settings.

There are many stimulator devices used for medical purposes. However, it is important to distinguish each one to ensure safety. Before using electrotherapy units, the person may consult a healthcare professional. They may advise if the device suits the condition. In addition, they may guide the person on how to properly use the device.

Types of Stimulator Devices

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units alleviate aches from chronic and acute pain conditions.
  • Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) machines use high-frequencies and target key muscle groups. These induce involuntary muscle contractions to build strength and reduce muscle atrophy.
  • Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) uses electrical currents to activate movements in paralysed muscles. It helps regain muscle function by targeting specific muscles or nerves.
  • Spinal Cord Stimulators (SCS) are implanted devices. They send electrical pulses directly to the spinal cord and help relieve pain.
  • Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) improves muscle strength by stimulating motor nerves. It also helps with muscle re-education.

A person wearing a small wing electrode on her arm

How an Electric Stim Machine Works

An electric stim machine has adjustable settings to enable users to customise their therapy session. These settings include the frequency, intensity, and pulse width. Generally, TENS machines have a frequency range of 1-150 Hz and an intensity range of 0-80 mA.  Some also have preset modes that users can select for more convenient treatment.

TENS machines work by inducing the body to relieve pain. High-frequency stimulation (50-120 Hz) triggers spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This is the mechanism suggested in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. Many use it for acute pain conditions because it works quickly. In addition, it has a massage-like effect that increases blood flow to the area and relaxes muscle tension.

Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) triggers the production of endogenous opioids. These painkilling hormones build up and alleviate the aches. This is often used for chronic pain conditions because its effects may last hours after the session. Moreover, endorphins help reduce inflammation and improve moods. Thus, it increases mobility and the quality of life.

Conditions that Can Be Treated

TENS therapy is an alternative pain management method that is effective in various conditions. Firstly, it helps with fibromyalgia. This is an ailment that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, tenderness, and general fatigue. Secondly, many people with arthritis also use this. Arthritis causes joint pain in adults and children alike.

Thirdly, it alleviates aches from migraines. A migraine is a pulsating or throbbing headache that may last for days. Lastly, TENS may provide analgesia during labour pains. Pregnant women may consult their doctors if they can use TENS during labour. However, it is crucial to remember that they must avoid TENS before their contractions start.

A woman manually adjusting the electrode on her wrist

How to Operate an Electric Stim Machine

An electric stim machine is straightforward to use. The person using it may read the instructions from the device manufacturer to understand how to use their machine. In addition, they may also check electrode placement charts or guides to ensure safety.

To start, the user should clean the skin with soap and water. This removes excess body oil and ensures hygiene. Then, the user may place the electrodes on dry skin near or on the pain source. Afterwards, they may turn the machine on. It is best to start on low settings to avoid electrical shocks or discomfort. Then, the user may gradually increase the settings or select a preset mode.

Generally, TENS therapy sessions last between 20 to 30 minutes. However, this can vary from person to person. It depends on the current health condition and the settings used. When the time elapses, the user must turn the device off. Lastly, remove the electrodes and store them for future use.

Safety Precautions When Using the Device

Ensuring safety is a top priority when using electrotherapy machines. To do this, the user must follow a few safety precautions. Firstly, stay alert while using TENS units. The person must avoid sleeping during the session. In addition, they should not engage in activities like driving or operating heavy machinery. Moreover, they must avoid contact with water.

Furthermore, first-time users must watch out for possible allergic reactions to the TENS pads. Additionally, individuals must avoid overusing the machine. Overuse may cause skin irritation and mild burns. Lastly, users must avoid placing pads in sensitive areas, such as the spine, throat, and chest.


Many people may benefit from using an electric stim machine. It is an electrotherapy device that relieves pain through electric stimulation. Using high-frequency stimulation triggers spinal nerve cells to block pain messages from reaching the brain. Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation induces endorphin production. Altogether, it is a versatile device that can relieve pain from migrainesfibromyalgia, and arthritis. In addition, some women may even use it to help with labour pains.

However, it is vital to ensure the safe use of electrotherapy devices. To help with this, the user may consult a healthcare professional for advice. They must also read the instruction manual from the device manufacturer. There are many kinds of electrotherapy devices, and it is vital to use the correct one. Moreover, wired and wireless options for TENS machines are available in the market. Those looking for a wireless unit may consider the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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