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Good TENS Machine – Contributing Factors

A large and small wing iTENS electrode and refill gel pads

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit is an electrotherapy device people use to alleviate pain. It is a non-invasive way of using electrical stimulation to induce nerve cells to block pain signals and trigger endorphin production. A good TENS machine should have adjustable frequency and intensity settings for various pain. Moreover, it should be portable and easy to use. Lastly, the individual should choose a TENS machine with long-lasting battery life and electrode pad options that suit them best.

Commonly, there are two types of TENS units. These are the wired and wireless TENS machines. Both types are available for purchase without medical prescriptions. However, it is best to consult a medical professional before using electrotherapy devices. This ensures the safety of the individual. This article will present the factors that contribute to a reliable TENS machine. This includes device type and features, frequency and intensity levels, and convenience and ease of use.

Good TENS Machine – Device Type and Features

A good TENS machine is a reliable medical device that relieves pain from chronic and acute conditions. It uses externally applied electrode pads to deliver electrical stimulation to the skin. There are two main types of TENS machines. The first type is the handheld TENS unit. This uses lead cables to connect from the control to the electrodes. Some devices may connect to up to eight electrodes. This type is usually battery-operated.

Moreover, these wired TENS machines are typically found in hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. In those settings, doctors or physical therapists oversee the TENS session. Meanwhile, wireless TENS are known for their convenience and advanced features. These TENS units use Bluetooth to adjust the electrical currents provided by the pads. This eliminates the restriction caused by wires.

Furthermore, some wireless devices connect to smartphone applications instead of a separate controller. Users may select from various preset modes tailored to specific body parts. This includes neck pain, shoulder pain, and knee pain. Additionally, most wireless devices have rechargeable batteries and specialised electrode pad designs to target different pain areas.

Common Treatable Conditions

These are the conditions that TENS may provide pain relief for:

  • Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. It causes joint pain and stiffness in many people of all ages.
  • Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, general fatigue, and tenderness.
  • Sciatica develops from injury or pressure to the sciatic nerve. It results in pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness in the leg.
  • Post-operative pain is typical after surgery. It often results in pain throughout the body.
  • Period pain occurs at the start of the menstrual period. It is often felt in the stomach, lower back, and legs.

A woman adjusting the settings on an iTENS electrode

Good TENS Machine – Frequency and Levels of Intensity

A good TENS machine provides sufficient electrical nerve stimulation by adjusting frequency and intensity settings. Generally, TENS units have a frequency range of 1-150 Hz and an intensity range of 0-80 mAmp. The person should ensure the device has a suitable range for the condition. Before purchasing a device, people should check if it is FDA-cleared to ensure it is an effective pain relief device.

People get optimal pain relief for their pain conditions by adjusting the intensity and frequency settings of the unit. Most TENS devices have manual options for settings of the electrical stimulation. These are often located in the controller. However, some wireless devices provide this adjustment on the electrodes. This makes TENS units versatile devices for effective pain relief.

However, it is crucial to remember that constant use of high-frequency stimulation may result in the person developing a tolerance. Moreover, a healthcare professional may advise on the duration, frequency, and settings to use during a TENS therapy session.

How it Works

Using high-frequency stimulation (50-120 Hz), electrical impulses induce spinal nerve cells to block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. This is the process suggested in the Pain Gate Control Theory. Using this setting is ideal for acute pain. Typically, this setting takes effect within 30 minutes of the session.

Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation triggers the production of endorphins. This setting is ideal for chronic pain. These hormones are natural painkillers that build up and alleviate aches in about 40 minutes. Moreover, the effect lasts for hours after the session. Altogether, TENS is a pain management method that uses natural body processes to relieve pain.

A woman with an iTENS electrode on her arm and lower back using the smartphone app

Good TENS Machine – Convenience and Ease of Use

A good TENS machine should be portable and easy to use. Many TENS devices are available in pharmacies and online stores for home use. This removes the need to visit hospitals or therapy clinics for TENS therapy. Furthermore, it would allow individuals effective pain relief at any time in various settings.

Additionally, the individual should look for a device with a good battery life. This prevents instances where the machine runs out of power during the session. Some may prefer units with rechargeable batteries to ensure the machine is ready before use. This allows them to avoid the hassle of buying batteries.

Another essential factor is the time and effort the device set-up requires before every use. When using wired units, the person must ensure the lead cables are attached to the controller and the electrodes. On the other hand, wireless devices remove this step and allow users to place electrodes underneath clothing. This enables users to do simple activities while using TENS machines.

General Precautions

Consulting a medical professional is best before using TENS therapy. This is because some conditions react negatively to electrical nerve stimulation. For example, those with electrical and metal implants should avoid using TENS. Additionally, those with a history of cancer, epilepsy, seizures, and arrhythmia should abstain from using TENS.

Furthermore, people should observe proper pad placement. Avoid placing adhesives on irritated, infected, or broken skin. Moreover, abstain from attaching them in sensitive areas like the mouth, eyes, spine, and throat. People must also refrain from overusing the machine to avoid skin irritations. Lastly, do not use electrotherapy devices while submerged in water.


A TENS machine uses electric currents to relieve pain in chronic and acute conditions. It is an alternative pain management method for fibromyalgia, arthritis, period pain, and more. Thus, purchasing a good TENS machine with adjustable frequency and intensity settings is vital. This allows the user to reach the ideal setting for their condition. High-frequency stimulation is more apt for acute pain. Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation is better for chronic pain.

Additionally, the individual should check if the battery life, battery type, and electrodes of the TENS unit suit them. Some may prefer to use handheld units to deliver more powerful electric currents. Meanwhile, some may choose rechargeable wireless devices because they are portable and easy to use. The iTENS from iTENS Australia is an option for a wireless TENS machine. It uses Bluetooth technology to connect its smartphone app to its wing-shaped electrodes.

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