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

Foot TENS Machine: How It Works And How To Use It

A woman holding her ankle while on the street

A foot TENS machine is a tool that uses electrical impulses to help alleviate pain in the feet. It works by using a process called pain gating, where the electrical signals block the pain signals from reaching the brain. Additionally, it stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. To use the machine, one must first clean their feet thoroughly. Then, they should apply the electrodes to the pain areas and adjust the settings accordingly.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy treats various acute and chronic pain conditions. It is a drug-free and non-toxic pain management method. Additionally, TENS does not cause common side effects like oral medications do. As a result, many people choose it as an alternative to pain relievers. This article will provide information on a foot TENS device, including its functionality and safety measures.

What is a Foot TENS Machine and How Does it Work

A foot TENS machine is a tool that uses Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy specifically for the foot area. It utilises varying frequency and intensity levels to activate the natural mechanisms of the body against pain. It works by employing two different methods: pain gating and the stimulation of endorphins.

Pain gating is achieved through the use of high-frequency electrical pulses that range from 50 to 150 Hz. These impulses stimulate the nerves, effectively blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. The gate system of the spinal cord plays a crucial role in regulating the transmission of these pain signals. When the gate is closed, fewer pain signals can pass through, resulting in a reduction in the experience of pain.

Additionally, a foot TENS unit can stimulate the release of endorphins through the use of low frequencies, typically ranging from 2 to 5 Hz. Endorphins are natural painkillers produced by the body. By triggering the production of these chemicals, the machine helps to alleviate pain by activating the internal pain reduction system.

Related Conditions that Can Be Treated

  • Plantar fasciitis: a common condition characterised by pain and inflammation in the heel and bottom of the foot.
  • Achilles tendonitis: inflammation of the Achilles tendon, often caused by overuse or repetitive strain.
  • Neuromas: a painful condition caused by the thickening of tissue around the nerves leading to the toes.
  • Metatarsalgia: pain and swelling in the balls of the feet.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome: a compression of the tibial nerve in the foot.
  • Circulation issues: conditions such as peripheral artery disease can cause poor blood circulation in the feet.
  • Heel spur: a condition where a bony growth forms on the heel bone.

A woman employing four iTENS devices, spanning from her thigh to her feet

How to Use a Foot TENS Machine

To properly use a foot TENS machine, users should start by cleaning their feet. They should thoroughly wash their feet with mild soap and warm water, ensuring that they are completely dry before proceeding. This is important to remove any dirt or oils that may interfere with the effectiveness of the electrodes.

Next, users have to carefully apply the electrodes to the desired areas on their feet. The pads should be placed securely and evenly, ensuring good contact with the skin. It is important to follow the specific placement instructions provided with the TENS machine to target the desired muscles or areas of discomfort.

After applying the electrodes, people can adjust the intensity level of the TENS machine. Professionals recommend starting at a low intensity and gradually increasing it to a comfortable level. Moreover, users should follow the advisable duration indicated in the user manual or as prescribed by a healthcare professional. They must not exceed the specified time to prevent discomfort or potential harm. Lastly, they have to turn off the device after use and store it in a secure place.

Correct Pad Placement Guide

Correct pad placement is crucial when using a foot TENS unit to ensure optimal pain relief. Firstly, the user needs to identify the specific pain area, whether it is the heel, arch, or ball of the foot. Secondly, they should place the pads on opposite sides of the affected area.

Alternatively, an effective technique is to place the pads in a cross formation. This involves placing one pad on the top of the foot and the other pad on the bottom. By doing so, the electrical impulses can travel across the foot, providing a more targeted stimulation to the affected nerves.

A person squeezing their foot

Safety Measures When Using a Foot TENS Machine

When using a foot TENS machine, people must follow certain safety measures to ensure their well-being. Firstly, it is essential to read the user manual thoroughly and consult a health professional, especially for first-time users. This will help them understand how to use the device correctly and address any concerns they may have.

Secondly, individuals with a history of seizures or those who have pacemakers must avoid using a foot TENS device. This is because the electrical stimulation of the TENS machine could potentially cause adverse effects for individuals with such conditions. It is always best to prioritise safety and consult with a healthcare provider before using the machine.

Lastly, people should not use the machine while driving, asleep, or exposed to water. Using the machine in these situations could be dangerous and increase the risk of accidents. Additionally, exposing the machine to water can cause it to malfunction and may pose a risk of electric shock. By following these safety measures, people can ensure the effective and safe use of a foot TENS unit.

When to Seek Medical Help

Users should seek medical help in certain situations. For instance, if they experience severe pain or discomfort that does not subside or worsens after using the device. This could indicate an underlying issue that needs further assessment and appropriate treatment.

Additionally, if the foot TENS device causes any unusual or concerning symptoms, such as excessive redness, swelling, or numbness in the foot. These symptoms may indicate an adverse reaction or potential injury. Getting medical help is important to use the device safely and effectively. Healthcare providers can guide and monitor progress to avoid harm or side effects.


A foot TENS machine is a tool that uses electrical stimulation to manage pain in the foot area. It utilises high-frequency pulses to close the pain gate in the spinal cord, reducing the transmission of pain signals. Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation triggers the release of endorphins. To use the device, one should clean their feet, apply electrodes evenly, and gradually adjust the intensity. This user-friendly approach empowers individuals to harness the benefits of foot TENS technology for effective pain relief.

More importantly, ensuring safety involves thorough reading of the manual, consulting healthcare professionals, and avoiding use in specific medical conditions. Additionally, users must refrain from using the device in situations like driving, sleeping, or exposure to water. Seeking medical help is vital if there is persistent discomfort or unusual symptoms. Adhering to these guidelines enhances the safe and effective use of a foot TENS unit, contributing to overall well-being.

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