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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Electric TENS Machine – What It Is, How It Works, and How To Use

An elderly woman using TENS on her arms while sitting and reading

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or electric TENS machine uses electrical current to alleviate different types of pain. It works by sending gentle electrical impulses to the body through electrode pads placed in the skin. Accordingly, it functions based on two main principles: the pain gate mechanism and the release of endorphins. Users can operate the electronic device with simple steps. They will need to place the electrodes in the treatment areaadjust the settings, and activate the stimulation.

In the field of pain management, TENS have become a game-changer. Whether a person is dealing with chronic pain or acute pain or simply looking for a natural pain relief option, TENS is beneficial. With its non-invasive nature and drug-free method of pain relief, it is no wonder that more people are turning to TENS devices. This article will present more about the TENS electrical device, including how it works and how people can operate the tool.

What is an Electric TENS Machine

One popular tool in pain relief is the electric TENS machine. It is a small, portable unit that utilises mild electrical pulses to provide effective treatment of pain in people. Typically, TENS are common in pain clinics and healthcare centres or are used by medical professionals. However, with the advancement in technology, people can use it in the comfort of their homes or on the go.

Generally, there are two common types of TENS: wired and wireless. Wired devices require the use of lead cables to connect the electrodes to the unit. These are usually operated with disposable batteries, and users can control them with buttons. Meanwhile, wireless units eliminate the use of wires, which makes them more convenient and discreet to use.

Users can operate TENS with wireless functionalities manually or with the use of a smartphone via Bluetooth. This development also includes rechargeable batteries, making it more cost-effective. Accordingly, some TENS offers pre-set programs and modes. This allows people to choose the most suitable treatment for a specific condition.

Pain Condition That Can Be Treated

TENS can be a form of pain relief for the following medical conditions:

  • Chronic pain conditions – these are long-lasting and persistent aches. It can include conditions like neck painfibromyalgia, and arthritis.
  • Acute pain conditions – it is a sharp or intense discomfort. This condition may involve period pain, sports injuries, and tension headaches.
  • Muscular pain – this can occur due to overexertion, tension, or injury, leading to stiffness and soreness.
  • Musculoskeletal pain – conditions such as joint pain and osteoarthritis pain may find relief from TENS.
  • Nerve-related aches – it may include conditions like sciatica or neuropathy. This is caused by damage or dysfunction of the nerves.

A woman using a large wing TENS in her back

How an Electric TENS Machine Works

An electric TENS machine works by streaming electric current into the body through electrode patches that are in the skin. This electrical stimulation can help reduce and alleviate aches naturally. When TENS sends electrical signals, it travels to the brain. Accordingly, it can interfere with the pain signals that are being sent by the body. This interference is known as the pain gate mechanism.

The idea is that the electrical impulses can “close” the gate that allows pain messages to reach the brain. As a result, it can help reduce the sensation of aches. Additionally, the electrical pulses can stimulate the body to produce its natural pain relievers, such as endorphins. Endorphins are natural substances that can help reduce aches and promote a sense of well-being.

By stimulating the production of endorphins, the TENS unit can help provide pain control without the need for oral medications. Furthermore, another way TENS works is by increasing blood flow in the treatment area. The electrical stimulation can cause the blood vessels to dilate, allowing optimal blood circulation. Therefore, it helps lessen inflammation and promote healing.

Benefits of Using the Device

TENS devices can give numerous benefits. Firstly, it is non-invasive and drug-free. It does not involve any needles, surgery, or the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Secondly, TENS have customisable settings. This allows users to control the treatment as they can modify the pulse rate, pulse amplitudes, and pulse duration. Thirdly, it is portable, enabling people to use it at home, work, or on the go.

Additionally, TENS are safe. It only has minimal side effects. TENS machines also empower individuals to take an active role in managing their aches. Also, it is cost-effective. It eliminates the need for frequent visits to healthcare professionals or clinics.

A woman manually operating TENS in her shoulder

How to Operate an Electric TENS Machine

Using an electric TENS machine is relatively simple. Before operating TENS, ensure that the unit is properly charged or has fresh batteries. Then, connect the electrodes using the lead wires to the device or through a smartphone for wireless. Before applying the pads, it is important to clean the skin. This ensures good contact and prevents skin irritation.

Next, remove the protective backing of the electrodes, revealing the sticky surface. Gently apply it to the treatment area, following the correct electrode placement. Once the pads are in place, turn on the device and adjust the settings. It may include modifying the frequency, intensity, or duration. Some TENS have pre-set programs, thus, select the desired therapy from the menu.

Nevertheless, professionals recommend starting treatment with the lowest settings and gradually increasing it to a comfortable intensity. Once the TENS is set up, the user can begin to activate the stimulation therapy. Users should feel a tingling sensation or a gentle tapping in the treatment area. This sensation should be strong enough but not uncomfortable.

Safety Considerations

Before undergoing TENS therapy, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional. They can guide whether TENS is suitable for the specific condition and offer recommendations. Also, it is important to follow the proper pad placement. Avoid placing the electrodes on sensitive areas such as the head, eyes, throat, mouth, chest, or broken skin.

Furthermore, do not start TENS therapy with high settings, as this can give sudden shocks. Users should adhere to the advisable duration of the treatment session. Prolonged use can lead to overstimulation and potential skin irritation. Also, do not use TENS while driving, sleeping, or in contact with water.


An electric TENS machine is a highly effective and convenient device for pain relief. It is available with wires and wireless functionalities, allowing people to choose the most suitable option. TENS works by delivering electrical currents to the body through electrode pads. It particularly functions by blocking pain signals, triggering the release of endorphins, or improving blood flow. Accordingly, users can operate the device by simply placing the electrodes, adjusting the setting, and activating the stimulation.

TENS therapy is beneficial in treating different conditions. This may include fibromyalgia, arthritis, sports injuries, muscle stiffness, neuropathy, and more. Also, TENS is valuable as it is non-invasive, drug-free, portable, safe, and cost-effective. Nevertheless, users must recognise the safety considerations. It involves consulting a medical practitioner, following proper pad placement, avoiding sensitive areas, and not using it during driving, sleeping, or in contact with water.

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