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

Hi TENS: What It Is, How To Use, and Safety Precautions

A runner getting a foot injury

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) offers drug-free pain relief through mild electrical currents. These currents are adjustable to low and high frequencies to treat different types of pain or conditions. In particular, Hi-TENS uses high pulse rates to provide a more intense level of stimulation. It is mostly used to treat moderate to severe pain. The TENS settings can be adjusted to a tolerable level. However, avoid extreme levels to prevent further injury or discomfort.

Individuals with acute or chronic pain may avail of the therapy through a portable TENS device. It consists of adhesive electrode pads and a remote control. Some devices are wireless, making them more portable and discreet. The adjustable settings also allow for tailored treatment for more effective pain relief. This article will present all about high-frequency stimulation, how to use the TENS device, and safety guidelines to follow.

What is Hi TENS

TENS machines are electronic medical devices that rely on electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves. Hi-TENS is a mechanism that uses a higher range of frequencies or pulse rates to relieve pain. The frequency typically ranges from 50 to 150 Hertz (Hz). These levels generate a strong but comfortable and non-painful therapeutic effect.

High frequencies target the sensory nerves. One of the main benefits of this therapy is its potential to provide immediate pain relief. Sensory level stimulation is fast-acting; however, the effect tends to diminish quickly after removing the device. This is in contrast to motor level stimulation using low frequencies, which takes more time to notice the effects.

This type of stimulation is often used to treat severe pain conditions. Individuals may opt to use a TENS machine to help minimise the pain intensity without the risks of oral medicines or intrusive procedures. Doctors may also recommend this natural approach to pain relief with other strategies, such as physical therapy or stretching.

What it Can Treat

  • Acute post-operative pain: after surgery, the muscles are often painful and sore. TENS helps relieve discomfort, whether minor or major incisions.
  • Musculoskeletal pain: pain in the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. The condition may be acute or chronic, depending on the cause of pain. The most common causes are overuse of the muscles and fibromyalgia.
  • Labour pain: relieves painful contractions during childbirth.
  • Injuries: strains or tears to the muscles or ligaments due to sports or accidents. TENS helps reduce swelling and increase blood flow, which helps accelerate healing.
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain: TENS help manage endometriosis pain or primary dysmenorrhea.

Woman with a small TENS pad on the hands

How to Use Hi TENS

To use Hi-TENS machine, begin by cleaning the area of the skin and remove lotion, oil, or dirt. This will make sure the pads adhere to the skin properly and provide better conductivity. Next, position the electrodes on either side of the pain site, about one inch apart. They should stick firmly to the skin and not overlap each other.

Turn on the TENS machine and set the frequency and pulse width. Start with a low-intensity level and gradually increase until the tingling sensations feel strong but comfortable. In high-frequency stimulation, the effect can be felt within 5 to 10 minutes. It is recommended to keep it on for 30 minutes for best results.

For severe or acute pain, adjust the pulse rate from 50 Hz. Moreover, users may keep on increasing the frequency to an optimal level. However, this should not cause further pain. It is also advisable to alternate low and high stimulation to prevent developing a tolerance. Once the therapy session is over, turn off the machine and remove the electrodes. Check the site of the pad placement and clean the area again.

How it Works

The method of TENS pain relief is based on two theories: Pain Gate Mechanism and Endogenous Opioid Release. The first mechanism involves flooding the nerve fibres with non-painful impulses, which prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. It uses high pulse rates to achieve this effect.

The second theory is based on the release of natural opioids in the body as a response to low-level stimulation. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that inhibit the nerve cells from releasing pain messages. Hence, it is known as the body’s natural painkiller. Overall, it is suitable for acute pain relief therapy to improve mobility and speed up healing.

iTENS long wing in the leg for sciatica

Safety Precautions When Using Hi TENS

When using Hi-TENS, it is important to take certain safety precautions. It is best to consult a health professional to ensure the therapy is a safe and appropriate treatment. This includes proper pad placement and intensity levels. In relation, avoid sensitive areas such as the temples, head, throat, chest, and spine. Also, do not place the electrodes on broken skin, near an open wound, or inflamed areas.

Individuals with heart diseases, epilepsy, cancer pain, and electrical-implanted devices should seek medical advice before using TENS. Likewise, pregnant women should refrain from using the device without clearance or supervision. Do not use it over the abdomen during pregnancy, as it may affect the foetus.

Furthermore, the electrical stimulation should not cause strong muscle contractions. Ensure the current levels of intensity are low and gradually increase if needed. Follow the recommended settings based on the levels of pain. Lastly, do not leave the TENS machine on the skin for more than one hour. Failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in ineffective treatment or potential harm.

Potential Side Effects

Although TENS is a safe and non-invasive treatment, some people may experience mild side effects. This includes redness or irritation of the skin beneath the electrode pads. It quickly vanishes within an hour after ceasing the therapy session. Additionally, headaches may arise due to overstimulation near the area.

Some users may also experience nausea due to excessively high intensity. Another potential side effect is muscle twitching. While this is temporary, it could be bothersome for others. It is vital to monitor the skin or bodily reactions after each session to identify any potential health risks and seek medical attention if the side effects persist.


Overall, Hi-TENS is an effective, non-invasive form of pain relief. It is suitable for acute pain conditions with moderate to severe symptoms. Common uses of TENS include postoperative pain, relief during labour, post-caesarian pain, primary dysmenorrhea, and sudden injuries. The machine delivers electrical currents to help reduce muscle tension and improve mobility. Furthermore, the TENS machine has adjustable settings to ensure enhanced pain relief. The stimulation is set between 50 to 150 Hz depending on the individual’s pain level.

TENS works based on the theory of pain gate mechanism and endorphin release. Moreover, the device is easy to operate with user-friendly features and instructions. It involves placing the electrode pads on the pain area and adjusting the intensity level. Nevertheless, there are precautions to follow. To ensure safety, it is best to consult a health professional before trying this therapy. Following the recommended settings and taking caution when using the device can help to achieve adequate relief.

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