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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

Electrical Stimulation TENS Unit: Can It Improve the Quality of Life?

A large wing iTENS, two packs of refill gel pads, and necessary information

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is an effective treatment, potentially improving the quality of life. It utilises an electronic device that emits electrical currents. Accordingly, it works in various analgesic mechanisms to enhance well-being. The electrical stimulation TENS unit blocks pain messages, prompts endorphin production, and boosts blood circulation. Furthermore, TENS therapy provides benefits to users. It is non-invasive, drug-free, adjustable, cost-effective, portable, and easy to conduct.

Dealing with various types of pain can be debilitating. It impacts daily activities and the overall quality of life. Traditional methods of pain relief, such as medication and physical therapy, may provide relief. However, there is a growing interest in alternative methods, such as TENS stimulation for pain relief. Physical therapists and pain clinics often recommend TENS electrical devices. This article will present how TENS units work, including their benefits and how to use them.

How Does an Electrical Stimulation TENS Unit Work?

The electrical stimulation TENS unit primarily functions through three mechanisms. Firstly, the electrical pulses from the TENS device stimulate the production and release of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals in the body that act as natural painkillers. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Thus, it reduces the sensation of discomfort and promotes a sense of well-being.

Secondly, TENS therapy utilises the pain gate mechanism. It is based on the theory that nonpainful input closes the “gate” to painful input. Hence, it prevents pain sensations from travelling to the central nervous system. Precisely, the electric currents from the unit interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain. As a result, they decrease the ability of the brain to perceive discomfort, providing a form of pain relief.

Lastly, the TENS machine enhances blood flow. The electrical pulses cause the blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood circulation. Improved circulation helps remove pain-causing chemicals and aids in the healing process. Additionally, increased flow delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues. Nevertheless, it further aids in pain relief and tissue repair.

Low and High Frequencies

TENS devices employ electrical currents at varying frequencies. It is generally categorised into:

  • Low-Frequency or Acupuncture-Like TENS: Operates at 1 to 10 Hz. In this setting, the TENS machine stimulates the body to produce endorphins. The relief is often gradual and builds up over time. It requires longer treatment sessions to achieve significant relief, but the effects can be long-lasting. Thus, it is beneficial for chronic pain conditions.
  • High-Frequency or Conventional TENS: Operates at 50 to 120 Hz. This mode of operation is effective for blocking pain signals through the pain gate mechanism. It offers quick relief, which is especially useful for acute pain episodes.

A person using a wearable and discreet TENS on their thigh

Benefits of Using an Electrical Stimulation TENS Unit

Foremost, an electrical stimulation TENS unit provides targeted relief directly to areas of discomfort. It effectively addresses specific pain points without affecting other parts of the body. Being non-invasive, TENS therapy offers a significant advantage. It eliminates the need for surgical procedures to manage discomfort. It minimises risks, eliminates prolonged recovery, and promotes safety for the user.

Moreover, it serves as a drug-free method of pain relief. It is particularly beneficial for individuals seeking alternatives to pharmaceuticals due to side effects or the potential for dependency. The versatility of TENS is another critical benefit. It is suitable for a wide range of conditions. Furthermore, it features adjustable settings. Users can customise the pulse rate, intensity, and duration.

Cost-effectiveness is a notable advantage. It offers a long-term, reusable solution for pain management without the ongoing expenses associated with medication or clinical visits. Also, most TENS devices are portable. This makes it an ideal option for active individuals. Additionally, TENS treatment can be used as a complementary therapy alongside other treatments. It enhances the overall effectiveness.

Treatable Conditions

TENS therapy is beneficial for acute pain. It is sudden and sharp, often resulting from postoperative pain, labour pain, menstrual cramps, and injuries. Additionally, TENS can manage chronic pain. It is a persistent or ongoing pain. It may include neck pain, backaches, fibromyalgia, and arthritis pain.

Also, TENS can treat neuropathic pain. It is caused by nerve damage or dysfunction. It may involve phantom pain, sciatica, and diabetic neuropathy. Furthermore, TENS is effective in addressing musculoskeletal pain. It may include joint pain and osteoarthritis. Moreover, TENS can aid muscle pain. It often results from sore muscles, tension, stress, or physical activity.

A step-by-step guide on how to use the iTENS app

How to Use an Electrical Stimulation TENS Unit

Using an electrical stimulation TENS unit is simple. Initially, identify the specific area of the body experiencing pain. Once pinpointed, the skin surface in that area should be clean and dry. It ensures the best conductivity and avoids skin irritation. The next step involves attaching the electrode pads to the skin. Place the pads directly on or surrounding the pain area, depending on the guidelines provided.

After the pads are securely in place, turn on the TENS device, starting at a low setting. Gradually increase the intensity of the electrical pulses until a solid but comfortable tingling sensation occurs. Nevertheless, users can select or adjust the settings depending on their needs and the recommendations of a healthcare provider. Choosing the correct settings can enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.

The duration of each session can vary, typically 15 to 30 minutes. Regular sessions can be scheduled throughout the day, according to pain management needs and the advice of healthcare providers. After use, turn off the TENS machine and carefully remove the electrode patches. Store the unit and its accessories in a safe, dry place for future use.

Safety Guidelines

Before using TENS devices, it is crucial to consult a medical professional. It is particularly vital for individuals with underlying medical conditions. Accordingly, inspect the pads for any wear or damage before applying the electrodes. Using damaged pads can lead to uneven electrical distribution or a less effective treatment.

Additionally, adhere to the proper electrode placement. Do not place the pads on the head, eyes, mouth, throat, chest, bony prominences, and broken skin. Also, avoid starting the therapy with high settings. It can cause electrical shocks and further discomfort. Furthermore, do not use the TENS machine while driving or operating heavy machinery.


In conclusion, electrical stimulation TENS units have proven helpful and effective tools for managing discomfort. It works by sending electrical pulses to the body via electrodes placed on the skin. Consequently, these pulses can stimulate the production of endorphins, interfere with the transmission of pain messages, and enhance blood flow in the treatment region. Additionally, the device employs electrical impulses at varying frequencies. It can stream them at low and high frequencies.

Furthermore, TENS therapy presents a multitude of benefits. It is non-invasive, drug-free, versatile, adjustable, cost-effective, portable, provides targeted relief, and can complement other treatments. Moreover, it can treat conditions like labour pain, arthritic pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, and sore muscles. The TENS unit is also simple to use. Place the electrodes, turn on the device, and adjust the settings. Nevertheless, knowing the safety guidelines is crucial for optimal TENS therapy.

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