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Buying vs Hiring a TENS Machine

A wireless TENS machine for pain relief

Buying or hiring a TENS machine is one of the practical ways to manage acute and chronic conditions. In labour pain management, more women employ TENS therapy to alleviate pain and discomfort without taking medications or intrusive procedures. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a natural and non-invasive method for pain reduction using mild currents. Moreover, despite using electricity, TENS is proven safe for the mother and the baby. It is also easy and ready to use in seconds.

TENS therapy is commonly used by people with chronic pain such as osteoarthritisgout, and sciatica. Likewise, individuals recovering from an accident or injury use a TENS machine in treatment facilities to cope with pain and heal faster. In addition, TENS also shows significant improvement in minimising pain during labour. This article will focus on how TENS help relieve labour pain, buying versus hiring a TENS machine, and how to use one.

Buying vs Hiring a TENS Machine: How TENS Relieves Pain

For first-time mothers, hiring a TENS machine for birth may be a viable option. It allows them to try the device and return it after use. Additionally, knowing how TENS works can help decide to invest in a personal unit like iTENS. A TENS machine is a portable device that delivers low-voltage electric currents passing through the skin to reach the nearby nerves. Furthermore, there are two ways in which a TENS machine reduces pain: Pain Gating and Endorphin Release.

The first method is the Pain Gate Control Theory. It suggests that electric currents stimulate the nerve fibres in the spinal cord to close. These nerves act as gate controllers where pain signals pass through. Hence, when the nerve pathways are closed, the pain signals do not reach the brain. The brain process fewer messages and the body perceives less pain. Furthermore, a TENS machine operates on a 50-100 Hz frequency to activate the pain gating mechanisms.

The second method is Endorphin Release. They are hormones that act as natural opioids in the body. In low frequencies (10 Hz or less), a TENS machine triggers endorphin production. Moreover, they help relieve pain sensations by inhibiting the nerve cells from sending pain messages to the brain. They are also known as “feel-good” hormones because they help reduce stress and anxiety. Thus, hiring a TENS machine helps keep stress from elevating and pain to a minimum level.

Benefits of TENS in Labour

  • Drug-free alternative
  • It is non-invasive and does not interfere with labour
  • You can control the stimulation level
  • Allows movement while using the device (especially with a wireless TENS device)
  • Suitable for home use
  • The machine is easy to operate
  • Does not harm the mother and the baby

A pregnant woman lying to ease pain

Best Options Between Buying and Hiring a TENS Machine

Labour pain management varies individually. Some women may be comfortable with oral medications while others opt for epidural injections. Yet, many people seek other risk-free methods like TENS therapy. Women may avail of this therapy by buying or hiring a TENS machine. If you are planning this pain relief option, you may ask beforehand if the hospital has on-hand units. Otherwise, you may buy or rent from clinics and other providers.

Conveniently, modern TENS machines are affordable and accessible. They are medical-grade devices available in pharmacies or online without a needed prescription. TENS machines come with standard wired and wireless electrode pads. Moreover, buying a TENS machine is cost-efficient for long-term use. The electrode pads are reusable and interchangeable. You may use it to relieve post-labour pain or other chronic pain symptoms. Likewise, you do not need to worry about returns or late fees.

On the other hand, hiring a TENS machine is practical for single use. Many providers offer a labour TENS machine for hire at a lower cost than buying a new one. You can rent a unit for 6 to 7-week periods. Thus, you may hire a TENS machine a few weeks before your expected delivery date. In addition, you need to return the unit on time to avoid incurring late fees or penalties.

Advantages of Personal Devices

Buying a personal TENS machine is favourable for the following reasons:

  • women who are planning multiple births
  • versatile for other pain conditions
  • available to use anytime
  • it is meant for single-person use
  • enables you to familiarise the device and settings
  • low-cost replacement pads
  • suitable for long-term use

The iTENS smartphone app guide for use

Buying vs Hiring a TENS Machine: How to Operate the Device

Hiring a TENS machine will give you labour-specific devices with specialised functions. Most labour TENS enables fast and convenient operation through one-press burst buttons and timers. However, standard devices also work in similar ways. Your doctor may advise you on operating the unit for your situation. In general, the administration of a TENS machine should be during the early stage of labour. Attach the electrode pads on the lower back and start with the lowest settings.

TENS therapy best relieve pain and cramping in the lower back. It is also most effective when you start at the early stage rather than in the middle of the active phase. For example, when you begin to feel persistent contractions. Additionally, position one set of electrode pads below the bra line at approximately 4cm on either side of the spine. Then, you may place another set above the dimple area of the buttocks.

Healthcare professionals can recommend the best TENS settings when buying or hiring a TENS machine. As mentioned, the safest way is to start with the lowest settings. Low frequencies enable the body to produce more endorphins to help ease intense cramping. The device also produces tingling sensations that can serve as distractions during peak contractions. Hence, it diverts attention from the pain. Subsequently, you may increase the frequency or intensity when the contractions get longer and stronger.

Safety Guidelines

Follow these guidelines to prevent potential risks:

  • Do not place the electrode pads over the belly during pregnancy or delivery
  • Do not place the electrode pads directly over the spine and joints
  • TENS is not meant for water birth. Remove the TENS machine before entering the water
  • Do not place on broken or infected skin


TENS therapy is a safe and practical way to manage labour pain. Hiring a TENS machine is an option if you want to try TENS therapy first. However, you must ensure to return the unit on time or you may accumulate penalties. However, buying a TENS machine is more economical if you plan to have multiple births or have underlying health conditions needing pain treatment. Additionally, they are simple to use even without medical supervision.

More women employ TENS therapy because it is a drug-free pain relief. It reduces the potential side effects of pain medicines and risks of other intrusive procedures. Furthermore, a TENS machine can be used with other natural methods like stretching, relaxation techniques, and massage. Therefore, it maximises the effectiveness of pain relief. Lastly, TENS machines are available online at a reasonable cost. You may get FDA-cleared TENS machines like the wireless iTENS at iTENS Australia.

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