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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine: Overview

A large wing iTENS with two packs of refill gel pads

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine (TENS) is an electronic device that uses electrical current to treat various types of pain. Accordingly, the mechanisms of action on how it works involve several physiological processes. This blocks the transmission of pain signals, prompts the release of endorphins, and promotes blood flow. Nevertheless, knowing the safety considerations when using TENS is vital. This may include consulting a health professional and adhering to proper electrode placement and settings.

Different types of pain affect millions of people, and this can greatly impact the quality of life. Many individuals turn to medications, physical therapy, and heat therapy. However, these options may not always provide long-lasting results. This is where TENS electrical devices come into play. These units have gained popularity as an effective method of pain relief. This article will present the electric nerve stimulation machines, the mechanisms of action on how they work, and the safety considerations.

What is an Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine?

An electrical nerve stimulation machine is a battery-powered device that utilises electric currents to stimulate nerves in the body. Pain clinics and physical therapists often use TENS as part of their treatment plans for patients recovering from conditions or undergoing therapies. Accordingly, individuals may utilise TENS at home for pain management needs.

TENS devices are available in the market in wired and wireless forms. Wired versions typically use lead cables to connect the electrode pads to the central unit. Meanwhile, wireless versions operate without the need for physical wires. Nevertheless, both versions offer various features. This may include adjustable settings, pre-set programs, and rechargeable batteries.

Furthermore, using the TENS unit is relatively simple. Start by preparing the TENS device. Then, identify the treatment area and clean the skin. Subsequently, position the electrode patches following the proper pad placement. Once the pads are in place, turn on the device. TENS units may allow the user to modify the settings or choose a pre-set program. The treatment may last between 15 to 30 minutes.

Treatable Conditions

  • Chronic pain conditions: an ongoing type of discomfort. TENS can help manage conditions like arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, backaches, and neck pain.
  • Acute pain: a sudden onset of symptoms. TENS is valuable for treating ailments like period pain, postoperative pain, labour pain, injuries, and headaches.
  • Neuropathic pain: this involves nerve damage or dysfunction. Conditions such as diabetic neuropathy and sciatica may benefit from TENS.
  • Musculoskeletal pain: this involves the bones, muscles, tensons, and ligaments. TENS can aid ailments like joint pain, knee osteoarthritis pain, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Muscle discomfort: TENS can effectively address specific muscle-related concerns. This may include muscle atrophy or weakness.

A woman using a wireless TENS on her lower back and arm

Mechanisms of Action on How an Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine Works

The electrical nerve stimulation machine operates through several key mechanisms of action. Firstly, the electrical stimulation can trigger the release of endorphins. These are the natural “feel-good” chemicals of the body. Endorphins bind to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Hence, this activity can reduce the perception of discomfort and promote a sense of well-being.

Secondly, TENS works based on a pain gate mechanism. The electrical pulses from the machine can stimulate the nerves. This can lead to the activation of the non-painful sensory fibres. Nevertheless, these sensory fibres work to close the “pain gate” in the spinal cord. This inhibits the transmission of pain messages to the brain. As a result, it ultimately reduces the sensation of discomfort.

In addition to these mechanisms, the stimulation for pain relief can promote blood flow in the treatment region. The electrical impulses cause the blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow. This activity can deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the body tissues. Overall, by harnessing these mechanisms of action, TENS effectively contributes to pain relief.

Advantages Over the Other Treatment Methods

One of the primary advantages of TENS is its non-invasiveness. This reduces the risk of complications and minimises recovery time. Also, TENS therapy is a drug-free treatment option. It eliminates the associated risks of medication use. Accordingly, TENS provides targeted treatment to specific areas of the body. This approach enhances the effectiveness of the therapy.

Additionally, TENS can be used as a complementary therapy alongside other interventions. Furthermore, TENS is highly customisable. It allows individuals to modify the frequency, intensity, and duration to suit specific needs. Also, TENS is portable. People can use it at home, at work, or on the go.

A person running up four TENS devices at once

Safety Considerations When Using an Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine

When using an electrical nerve stimulation machine, it is essential to note several safety considerations. Foremost, individuals should consult a healthcare professional before using TENS. This is particularly vital for people with underlying medical conditions. Accordingly, before each use, ensure that the device is in good working condition. Any signs of damage should be addressed before proceeding with treatment.

Proper electrode placement is essential for safe and effective therapy. Hence, follow guidelines on the specific pad placement for a certain condition. Also, avoid placing the electrodes on the head, eyes, mouth, throat, chest, bony regions, and broken skin. Furthermore, exercise caution when adjusting the settings of electrical stimulation. Start with the lowest setting and gradually increase it to a comfortable level.

Moreover, continuous monitoring during the session is necessary. This is to identify any adverse reactions or discomfort promptly. The duration of the therapy typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes. For longer sessions, it is advisable to take breaks before continuing the treatment. Additionally, do not undergo TENS therapy while driving, sleeping, operating machinery, or in contact with water.

When to Seek Medical Help?

If experiencing persistent discomfort or unusual sensations during or after the session, it is essential to seek medical attention. This could indicate that there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. In cases where the user develops skin irritation or signs of allergic reactions, it is advisable to see a doctor. These symptoms could indicate adverse skin reactions.

Furthermore, if the individual experiences muscle contractions that are concerning, it is vital to stop the treatment and seek medical help. This may indicate potential muscle-related issues that require attention. Also, the occurrence of nausea and dizziness requires immediate medical attention.


In conclusion, electrical nerve stimulation machines are a highly beneficial tool in the field of healthcare. It is a wired or wireless electronic device that delivers electrical currents to the body. Accordingly, it is easy to use. Prepare the device, locate the treatment area, place the pads, and adjust the settings. Nevertheless, the mechanisms of action on how it works include blocking pain signals, prompting the release of endorphins, and enhancing blood circulation.

TENS therapy can treat various conditions. This may include managing fibromyalgia, injuries, headaches, diabetic neuropathy, knee osteoarthritis pain, and muscle weakness. Moreover, TENS provides numerous benefits. It is non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, portable, and it provides targeted relief. However, it is essential to know the safety considerations when using TENS. This is to achieve optimal TENS therapy experience. TENS devices are available in the marketplace, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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